Suspended prison for German who insulted Koran
23 February 2006
LUEDINGHAUSEN, GERMANY – A German who insulted the Islamic holy book by printing the word “Koran” repeatedly along toilet paper was given a suspended sentence Thursday of one year in prison and ordered to do 300 hours of community service.
Judge Carsten Krumm told the 61-year-old retired businessman that the penalty was increased to one year because of the worldwide political controversy in the past month over cartoons that Muslims regard as offensive because they depict the Prophet Mohammed.
“The significance of what you did became far greater through the world political situation,” the judge said.
The man had admitted to the district court in the small German town of Luedinghausen that he had printed and distributed the paper and asserted that his motivation had been to raise funds for an “artistic” campaign against Islamist terrorism.
The judge assisted by lay assessors found him guilty under a part of the German legal code that makes it punishable to “insult confessions, religious communities or groups promoting a special world view.” The maximum penalty available was three years in jail.
He was also found guilty of disturbing public peace.
The jail term was to be suspended for five years, meaning he can be summoned to jail for one year if he commits any other offence during the five years.
What form his 300 hours of community service will take will be decided by probation officials: in Germany, such service often involves helping old people with shopping or doing gardening and forestry work.
The defendant accepted the sentence and there will be no appeal.
The court was told how the man, who lives in the small northern provincial town of Senden, sent the toilet paper to 22 mosques and to German television stations to win attention, provoking outrage in Islamic countries.
He had used a stamp to imprint the words, “Koran, the Holy Koran”, on the rolls of toilet paper.
Judge Krumm said that the man, who already has several convictions for other crimes, was “seriously deluded” in what he did.
Iranian diplomats delivered an official note of protest to the German Foreign Office in Berlin after the man’s activities were reported in the media, telling the German government he was insulting the Koran.
A senior prosecutor praised the sentence as a “clear deterrent to others”.
The accused told the court he had spent about 15 years of his life in Islamic nations such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and had developed a fierce antipathy towards Islam.
He claimed he devised the plan in response to the terrorist attacks by Islamists on London public transport last year and the assassination of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in November 2004 by an Islamic fanatic.
He told the court he had wanted to raise a monument to the victims of Islamist terrorism and believed he could raise donations with the paper.
Angry Muslims in Germany have sent him threatening messages for several weeks and the man said he feared for his life and was being protected by police bodyguards.
“For weeks I’ve hardly slept a wink,” he told the court.
The man was convicted under a law that has been mainly used in the past to punish insults directed at Christians.
Subject: German news