[JURIST] Denmark's Director of Public Prosecutions [official website, in English] Henning Fode has decided not to press criminal charges against Jyllands-Posten [media website], the Danish newspaper that first published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] which last month set off worldwide protests amongst Muslims leading to multiple deaths, the burning of Danish embassy buildings, and boycotts of Danish goods. The top prosecutor upheld the earlier decision of a regional prosecutor who maintained the drawings were protected by freedom of speech laws and did not violate bans on racist and blasphemous speech. In a press release [PDF] on the full ruling [English version], Fode said:
I have today decided not to institute criminal proceedings in the case of Jyllands-Posten's article "The Face of Muhammed", which was published on 30 September 2005 and where complaints were filed against Jyllands-Posten for violation of Sections 140 and 266 b of the Danish Criminal Code. My decision is that there is no violation of the said rules of the Danish Criminal Code.Many Muslim organizations and individuals have expressed their disapproval of the decision, including the Islamic Faith Community, which says it will consider taking the issue to the European Court of Human Rights [official website] in Strasbourg, France. The Danish Foreign Ministry has meanwhile upgraded travel warnings for Muslim countries, fearing that the decision may cause negative reactions towards Danes abroad. AP has more.
Although there is no basis for instituting criminal proceedings in this case, it should be noted that both provisions of the Danish Criminal Code contain a restriction of the freedom of expression. Section 140 of the Criminal Code protects religious feelings against mockery and scorn and Section 266 b protects groups of persons against scorn and degradation on account of their religion among other things. To the extent publicly made expressions fall within the scope of these rules there is, therefore, no free and unrestricted right to express opinions about religious subjects. It is thus not a correct description of existing law when the article in Jyllands-Posten states that it is incompatible with the right to freedom of expression to demand special consideration for religious feelings and one has to be ready to put up with scorn, mockery and ridicule. My decision in the matter cannot be appealed to a higher administrative authority. This follows from Section 99(3) of the Danish Administration of Justice Act.