September 2, 2009 / 2:31 PM / 10 years ago

Dutch Muslim group prosecuted over Holocaust cartoon

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Arab European League (AEL) is being prosecuted for insulting Jews by publishing a cartoon suggesting they invented the Holocaust, the Dutch public prosecution office said on Wednesday.

A rose is placed on a barbwire near the "Arbeit Macht Frei" (work makes one free) gate at Auschwitz, southern Poland April 21, 2009. REUTERS/Peter Andrews

The office said it told the AEL, a lobby group for Muslim and Arab rights in Europe, two weeks ago that publishing the cartoon was illegal, but that it would drop the case if the group removed the cartoon from its website within two weeks and agreed not to republish it.

The AEL had already taken the cartoon off its website, but republished it, prompting the prosecution to proceed with the case. The group said it would remove the cartoon again but would defend the case in court.

The cartoon shows two men, beneath a sign reading ‘Auschwitz’ and beside several bodies, saying the victims might not have been Jewish but they still had to ‘get to’ six million — the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

“This cartoon can be ... considered to be discriminatory,” the prosecution said in a statement, adding that it was offensive to the entire Jewish population.

The AEL said it had used the Holocaust cartoon when it began a campaign in February 2006 to “illustrate with cartoons the double morals of the West during the Danish cartoon affair.”

Abdoulmouthalib Bouzerda, chairman of the Dutch AEL, said the group had published a disclaimer at the time saying it did not support the views of the cartoons it used.

As a supporter of the freedom of speech, the AEL did not complain about the republication of the Mohammad cartoons in the Netherlands and was trying to show that not only Muslims could be insulted by cartoons, he said.

He was referring to a cartoon in a Danish newspaper in 2005 showing the Prophet Mohammad, founder of Islam, with a bomb in his turban.

Its later republication in several newspapers sparked violent protests in Muslim countries in 2006, prompting the newspaper to apologize, though the Danish government defended the paper’s right to freedom of expression.

The Dutch public prosecution office said it had decided not to take action against the republication of the Mohammad cartoon in the Netherlands because it was not considered offensive to Muslims in general.

“It is not up to the public prosecution to decide who is insulted and who is not insulted,” Bouzerda said.

Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block, editing by Tim Pearce

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