The award-winning but controversial Danish political cartoonist Kurt Westergaard was supposed to speak in Oslo on Tuesday but police reportedly sent him home. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that police feared Westergaard was the target of an assassination attempt.
Westergaard, age 76, became a target of Islamic fury after he drew a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed that most Muslims found offensive. Both he and the newspaper where he worked, Jyllands Posten, have since been the targets of terrorist attacks and as late as last year, a man broke into Westergaard’s home in Denmark and tried to kill him, Views and News from Norway af Views and News.
On Tuesday, several police cars were outside the venue for Westergaard’s appearance in Oslo, Litteraturhuset next to the Royal Palace. Police wouldn’t offer details, but NRK said they were there because of fears there would be an attack on the event where Westergaard was speaking with his Norwegian friend and colleague Geirr Lystrup. The two have written and illustrated a book together and had planned to present it at the event.
Westergaard suddenly bowed out and the cancellation was blamed on Westergaard falling ill. Westergaard himself told NRK, however, that police told him to say he was sick after they had information indicating an assassination attempt would be made against the artist. He said they told him it would be best if he left Norway immediately.
“It was something the Norwegian security police (PST) and Danish PET decided, and then I traveled very quickly home,” Westergaard told NRK.no. He said he did not feel unwell, even though his publishing firm in Denmark maintained that his appearance in Oslo was cancelled because of illness.
Lystrup told NRK it was “terrible” if it’s true that there were assassination plans against the event at Litteraturhuset. Media all over the world have supported Westergaard to fight the threat against freedom of expression.
“It makes me think that it’s strange times we’re living in,” Lystrup told NRK.no. “I thought this couldn’t be serious. But it is serious, and I perhaps didn’t realize that when I took contact with Kurt Westergaard and asked him to illustrate the book.”