Danish court rules on Tunisians held over alleged murder plot

Danish CourtCopenhagen - The Danish supreme court Wednesday issued a key ruling concerning two Tunisian nationals arrested earlier this year on suspicion of planning to murder a newspaper cartoonist.

The two were arrested in February after the Danish security and intelligence service PET said it had uncovered a plot to murder cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Westergaard's controversial cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban was one of 12 images published in September 2005 by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. The cartoons sparked worldwide violent protests in 2006. Many Danish companies were also boycotted in Muslim countries.

Different courts have since assessed the arrests and evidence.

The seven judges said Wednesday the evidence was insufficient to hold the older of the two Tunisians, aged 37, in custody. The security service alleged he masterminded the plan to kill Westergaard.

However, the judges said they were satisfied with the evidence presented against his 26-year-old accomplice, citing that he on two occasions was spotted near Westergaard's home.

The judges did not rule if the two posed a threat to state security.

In August, the 26-year-old voluntarily left Denmark while the older suspect was last month placed under so-called "tolerated stay." This allows foreign nationals to remain despite convictions of serious crimes or posing a threat to state security since they face persecution or ill-treatment in their home country.

The 37-year-old was likely to seek compensation for being wrongfully held in custody, his lawyer said.

Westergaard, who has police protection, told Danish news agency Ritzau he "respected the ruling."

However, he said he expected to continue to have police protection and said he had no regrets over his drawings.

"There is always a cost to stand up for democratic values that are under threat," he was quoted as saying. (dpa)