Merkel to honour Danish Mohammed cartoonist: organisers

7th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Chancellor Angela Merkel will make a speech at an event this week honouring a Danish cartoonist who sparked Muslim anger by depicting the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb as a turban, organisers said.

The German chancellor, 56, will make a speech on press freedom at Wednesday's ceremony in Potsdam, near Berlin, awarding Kurt Westergaard, 75, the M100 Media Prize 2010, organisers said in a statement.

With Westergaard subject to death threats, there would be an "appropriate" security presence at the event, including body searches, police spokesman Rudi Sonntag told AFP.

Westergaard drew the most controversial of 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, first published in a Danish newspaper in 2005, which many Muslims considered offensive.

The drawings sparked protests in January and February 2006 that culminated with the torching of Danish diplomatic offices in Damascus and Beirut and the death of dozens of people in Nigeria.

In 2008, around 20 Danish newspapers reproduced the drawings triggering further protests in Muslim countries including Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Westergaard said in June he was retiring from the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in the hope of damping down the danger to himself and fellow journalists. He had been on leave since November 2009 after two men were arrested in Chicago with plans to attack the newspaper.

In January a 28-year-old Somali man allegedly broke into Westergaard's home and threatened to kill him with an axe and a knife. The cartoonist locked himself in the bathroom behind a reinforced door.

"We Germans are remembering during these months the end of the (East German) dictatorship and the reunification of our country 20 years ago," Merkel was quoted as saying in the organisers' statement.

"We still know what no freedom means and we should never forget how valuable liberty is. Press freedom is one of the features of a free democracy," said Merkel, who grew up in the communist East Germany.

© 2010 AFP

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