A Danish court on Friday jailed a Somali Islamist for nine years and told him that he would then be kicked back to his homeland for trying to butcher a cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Mohammed.
The Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who caricatured the Prophet Mohammed in 2005. A Danish court has jailed a Somali for nine years after finding him guilty of attempting to murder Westergaard.
A day after Mohamed Geele was found guilty of attempted murder and terrorism for a New Year’s Day axe attack last year, the court in the central Danish city of Aarhus disregarded his plea to be spared expulsion back to war-torn Somalia after his time behind bars.
“Mohamed Geele is sentenced to nine years in prison and expulsion from Denmark for life,” Ingrid Thorsboe, who headed the case’s three-judge team, told the court.
Geele’s legal team immediately announced that they would appeal.
A six-member jury at the district court had convicted Geele, 29, on Thursday at the end of a trial that had gripped Denmark.
During the trial, the 75-year-old cartoonist Kurt Westergaard recounted how he feared he was going to die after Geele broke into his home, and was only able to survive by locking himself inside a special panic room from where he alerted police.
On Friday, Westergaard did not attend the sentencing but told AFP by telephone he was pleased with the court ruling.
“I think that he got what he deserved… Justice has been served,” he said, adding however he considered Geele “just as much a victim of Islamism as I almost was.”
“He wanted to be a martyr, to die as a martyr, of that I am sure,” he said, stressing he hoped “that he will have the time in prison to think about his religion and to renounce the fanaticism that has landed him behind bars.”
The prosecution had requested Geele serve 12 years in prison before being deported and banned from ever returning to Denmark, but on Friday lead prosecutor Kirsten Dyrman said she was “satisfied with the verdict.”
Geele’s lawyer Niels Strauss, who had asked that his client receive no more than six years in prison and not be expelled, immediately appealed the verdict and sentence.
He demanded “the acquittal of (his) client for charges of terrorism, and that extenuating circumstances (be considered) for the other charges.”
Strauss maintained that an attack against a single person could not be qualified as terrorism, while Geele, a father of four, told the court his life would be in danger if he were deported to Somalia.
The Somali broke into 75-year-old Westergaard’s home last year wielding an axe and screaming, “You must die! You are going to Hell!”, according to the cartoonist’s testimony in court last month.
Geele, who is suspected of having links to the Somali Islamist movement Al-Shebab, had threatened police arriving on the scene with his axe and knife and was shot twice before being placed under arrest.
In court, the attacker insisted he was only trying to frighten Westergaard to get him to stop “dirtying” the prophet.
Westergaard meanwhile told AFP Friday he would “never give up freedom of expression, regardless of the price I have to pay. Otherwise the terrorists will have won.”
Questioned by AFP, Strauss said his client “was not surprised by the verdict in light of the heavy charges against him.”
The sentence, considered harsh in Denmark, “shows in my opinion that use of the anti-terrorism law is dubious and vague, allowing very broad interpretations,” he said.
Judge Thorsboe said the court had ruled Geele should also “pay damages amounting to 10,000 Danish kroner ($1,830, 1,340 euros) to Kurt Westergaard, as well as cover the costs of the trial,” and that he would “remain in preventive custody until his appeals case.”
In Aarhus, home to the Jyllands-Posten daily that in 2005 first published Westergaard’s and other artists’ controversial cartoons of the Muslim prophet, locals hailed the court ruling.
“The attack on Kurt Westergaard had symbolic value. It concerned us all because it was an attack on our values and on the freedom of expression that we hold dear,” bank employee Eva Falborg told AFP.