DENMARK’S top prosecutor has charged a Somali man with terrorism for allegedly trying to kill a cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Mohammed.
Joergen Steen Soerensen said the man, who cannot be named under a court order, wanted to “seriously frighten the population” and destabilise Denmark in the January attack on Kurt Westergaard.
The 28-year-old allegedly forced himself into Westergaard’s home – armed with a knife and an axe – trying to break into the panic room where the Danish cartoonist was hiding.
Police, who had been alerted to the scene, shot the attacker in the hand and leg as he tried to escape. Westergaard, age 74, was not hurt in the attack.
The suspect, who has been in custody since the attack, claimed he only wanted to frighten Westergaard and has denied all charges except of possessing weapons.
Mr Soerensen said the suspect was also charged with attempted murder of a police officer. If found guilty, he faces a life sentence, which in Denmark is generally reduced to 16 years in prison.
Westergaard said the attacker became a terrorist “the very moment he tried to killed me”.
“I am an old and peaceful man and I am not vindictive but, of course, I believe he should be punished in line with the terror laws,” Westergaard told AP.
The Danish intelligence agency says the suspect has links with the Somali militant group al-Shabab and al-Qaeda leaders in eastern Africa. A spokesman in Somalia for al-Shabab has denied the man is a member of the group.
Westergaard has faced several death threats over his depiction of Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban.
The drawing was considered the most offensive of 12 Danish cartoons of the prophet that sparked an uproar in Muslim countries in 2006. He has lived under police protection since February 2008.
Westergaard retired last month, citing his age. He had been working at Jyllands-Posten newspaper for 27 years. He said he was enjoying life as a retiree but doubts that the cartoon “ever will stop haunting me”.
In October, terrorism charges were brought against two Chicago men who allegedly planned to kill Westergaard and Jyllands-Posten’s former cultural editor. That trial has not yet begun.
Last week, Indonesian police arrested three men suspected of plotting to attack the Danish Embassy in Jakarta.