A Somali man who broke into the home of a Danish cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad has been unanimously convicted by a jury of attempted murder and terrorism. The assailant, Mohamed Geele, had links to the terrorist organization al-Shabaab and could face a life sentence for his attempted axe and knife attack on 75-year-old Kurt Westergaard.
"The court deems that the attempted murder of Kurt Westergaard in his own home, (of the man who) personifies the Muhammad cartoon affair, must be considered as an attempt to instill a heightened level of fear in the population and to destabilize the structures of society," Judge Ingrid Thorsboe told the court. In addition to facing life imprisonment, Geele could be deported.
The cartoonist survived the attack by hiding in a panic room but left his granddaughter, 5, outside with the assailant.
Geele said he intended only to scare Westergaard, not hurt him. "I thought that by threatening and scaring Kurt Westergaard, maybe I could convince him to stop bragging about his drawings," he said. "I had seen in the media that his house was surrounded by police officers one time when he had received an anonymous parcel. So I thought that since he wasn't going to open the door for me, I'd better bring my axe so I could get through the door."
Threats and plots against Muhammad cartoonists and the newspapers that published his cartoons their cartoons have accelerated in recent months. On Dec. 29, Swedish and Danish police arrested 5 suspects who planned to launch a "Mumbai-style attack" on the offices of Danish paper Jyllands-Posten, in what the Danish justice minister called "the most serious terror attempt in Denmark." The Somalis convicted of terrorism in Sweden are appealing, arguing that Sweden's anti-terror legislation does not cover the al-Shabaab militia. "It seems doubtful that (Sweden's) anti-terror legislation can apply to the conflict in Somalia," said their lawyer.
Al-Shabaab issued threats in late November against Lars Vilks, a cartoonist in Sweden, through a Swedish-speaking member of its organization. Drawing his finger across his throat, al-Shabaab fighter Abu Zaid threatened, "Know what awaits you, as it will be nothing but this, slaughter… and to my brothers and sisters, I call you to make Hijra [emigrate] Inshallah, and if you can, kill this dog Lars Vilks. Then you will receive a great reward from Allah." Al-Shabaab has been trying to recruit from the international Somali diaspora in Scandinavia, America, and beyond.