Free Speech Found Guilty by Europe (GateStone Institute) by Soeren Kern 04/23/12)
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The ruling showed that while Judaism and Christianity can be
disparaged with impunity, speaking the truth about Islam is subject
to swift and hefty legal penalties. The Supreme Court stressed that
the substance of the charges -- public criticism of Islam – is still
a crime punishable by imprisonment. Under Danish law, it is
immaterial whether a statement is true or false. All that is needed
for a conviction is for someone to feel offended.
Lars Hedegaard, the president of the Danish Free Press Society, has
been acquitted by the Danish Supreme Court on charges of "hate
speech" for critical comments he made about Islam.
The verdict, however represents only a partial victory for free
speech in a Europe that is being stifled by politically correct
restrictions on free speech, particularly on issues related to Islam.
Although Hedegaard was acquitted, it was on a legal technicality; in
its ruling, the Supreme Court stressed that the substance of the
charges against Hedegaard -- public criticism of Islam, -- is still a
crime punishable by imprisonment.
Hedegaard´s legal problems began in December 2009, when he said in a
taped interview that there was a high incidence of child rape and
domestic violence in areas dominated by Muslim culture. Although
Hedegaard insisted that he did not intend to accuse all Muslims or
even the majority of Muslims of such crimes, Denmark´s thought police
were incensed at such effrontery:
the Danish public prosecutor´s office declared that Hedegaard was
guilty of violating Article 266b of the Danish penal code, a catch-
all provision that Danish elites use to enforce politically correct
The infamous Article 266b states: "Whoever publicly or with the
intent of public dissemination issues a pronouncement or other
communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or
denigrated due to their race, skin color, national or ethnic origin,
religion or sexual orientation is liable to a fine or incarceration
for up to two years."
In January 2011, a Danish lower court acquitted Hedegaard of any
wrongdoing. But public prosecutors appealed that verdict and in May
2011, a Danish superior court found Hedegaard guilty of hate speech
in accordance with Article 266b because he "ought to have known" that
his statements regarding family rape in Muslim families were intended
for public dissemination.
On April 20, 2012, the Danish Supreme Court decided that the
prosecution had failed to prove that Hedegaard was aware that his
statements would be published. Although Hedegaard was thus acquitted,
the court also made a special point of ruling that the substance of
his statements, namely the public criticism of Islam, is a violation
of Article 266b.
As a result, although Hedegaard has been cleared of wrongdoing, the
Supreme Court has affirmed the legal restrictions on free speech in
Hedegaard´s case is similar to recent or current ones in Austria,
Finland, France, Italy and the Netherlands and exemplifies the
growing use of lawfare: the malicious use of European courts to
silence public discussion about the growing problem of Muslim
In Austria, for example, an appellate court in December 2011 upheld
the politically correct conviction of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a
Viennese housewife and anti-Jihad activist, for "denigrating
religious beliefs" after she gave a series of seminars about the
dangers of radical Islam. The ruling showed that while Judaism and
Christianity can be disparaged with impunity in postmodern
multicultural Austria, speaking the truth about Islam is subject to
swift and hefty legal penalties.
Also in Austria, Susanne Winter, an Austrian politician and Member of
Parliament, was convicted in January 2009 for the "crime" of saying
that "in today´s system" the Islamic prophet Mohammed would be
considered a "child molester." She was referring to Mohammed´s
marriage to nine-year-old Aisha. Winter was also convicted
of "incitement" for saying that Austria faces an "Islamic immigration
tsunami." Winters was ordered to pay a fine of €24,000 ($31,000), and
received a suspended three-month prison sentence.
In Denmark, Jesper Langballe, a Danish politician and Member of
Parliament, was found guilty of hate speech in December 2010 for
saying that honor killings and sexual abuse take place in Muslim
Langballe was denied the opportunity to prove his assertions because
under Danish law it is immaterial whether a statement is true or
false. All that is needed for a conviction is for someone to feel
offended. Langballe was summarily sentenced to pay a fine of 5,000
Danish Kroner ($850) or spend ten days in jail.
In Finland, Jussi Kristian Halla-aho, a politician and well-known
political commentator, was taken to court in March 2009 on charges
of "incitement against an ethnic group" and "breach of the sanctity
of religion" for saying that Islam is a religion of pedophilia. A
Helsinki court later dropped the charges of blasphemy but ordered
Halla-aho to pay a fine of €330 ($450) for disturbing religious
worship. The Finnish public prosecutor, incensed at the court´s
dismissal of the blasphemy charges, appealed the case to the Finnish
Supreme Court, where it is now being reviewed.
In France, novelist Michel Houellebecq was taken to court by Islamic
authorities in the French cities of Paris and Lyon for calling
Islam "the stupidest religion" and for saying the Koran is "badly
written." In court, Houellebecq (pronounced Wellbeck) told the judges
that although he had never despised Muslims, he did feel contempt for
Islam. He was acquitted in October 2002.
Also in France, Brigitte Bardot, the legendary actress turned animal
rights crusader, was convicted in June 2008 for "inciting racial
hatred" after demanding that Muslims anaesthetize animals before
Elsewhere in France, Marie Laforęt, one of the country´s most well-
known singers and actresses, appeared in a Paris courtroom in
December 2011 to defend herself against charges that a job
advertisement she placed discriminated against Muslims.
The 72-year-old Laforęt had placed an ad on an Internet website
looking for someone to do some work on her terrace in 2009. She
specified in the ad that "people with allergies or orthodox Muslims"
should not apply "due to a small Chihuahua." Laforęt claimed that she
made the stipulation because she believed the Muslim faith views dogs
as unclean animals.
The case was taken up by an anti-discrimination group called the
Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP),
which lodged a criminal complaint against Laforęt. Her lawyer said
Laforęt "knew that the presence of a dog could conflict with the
religious convictions of orthodox Muslims. It was a sign of respect."
But Muslims rejected her defense.
In The Netherlands, Geert Wilders -- the leader of the Dutch Freedom
Party who had denounced the threat to Western values posed by
unassimilated Muslim immigrants -- was recently acquitted of five
charges of inciting religious hatred against Muslims for comments he
made that were critical of Islam. The landmark verdict brought to a
close a highly-public, two-year legal odyssey.
Also in The Netherlands, Gregorius Nekschot, the pseudonym of a Dutch
cartoonist who is a vocal critic of Islamic female circumcision and
often mocks Dutch multiculturalism, was arrested at his home in
Amsterdam in May 2008 for drawing cartoons deemed offensive to
Muslims. Nekschot (which literally means "shot in the neck," a method
the cartoonist says was used by "fascists and communists to get rid
of their opponents") was released after 30 hours of interrogation by
Dutch law enforcement officials.
Nekschot was charged for eight cartoons that "attribute negative
qualities to certain groups of people," and, as such, are insulting
and constitute the crimes of discrimination and hate according to
articles 137c and 137d of the Dutch Penal Code.
In an interview with the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, Nekschot said
it was the first time in 800 years in the history of satire in the
Netherlands that an artist was put in jail. (That interview has since
been removed from the newspaper´s website.) Although the case against
Nekschot was dismissed in September 2010, he ended his career as a
cartoonist on December 31, 2011.
In Italy, the late Oriana Fallaci, a journalist and author, was taken
to court for writing that Islam "brings hate instead of love and
slavery instead of freedom." In November 2002, a judge in
Switzerland, acting on a lawsuit brought by Islamic Center of Geneva,
issued an arrest warrant for Fallaci for violations of Article 261 of
the Swiss criminal code; the judge asked the Italian government
either to prosecute or extradite her. The Italian Justice Ministry
rejected this request on the grounds that the Italian Constitution
protects freedom of speech.
But in May 2005, the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), a
group that is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, filed a lawsuit
against Fallaci, charging that "some of the things she said in her
book ´The Force of Reason´ are offensive to Islam." An Italian judge
ordered Fallaci to stand trial in Bergamo on charges of "defaming
Islam." Fallaci died of cancer in September 2006, just months after
the start of her trial.
Back in Denmark, Hedegaard was circumspect about his acquittal. In a
statement he said: "I am pleased that the Supreme Court has handed
down a judgment in accordance with the evidence that was presented in
the District Court and High Court."
But, Hedegaard also acknowledged: "This judgment cannot be
interpreted as a victory for freedom of speech. Article 266b, under
which I was charged, remains unchanged. It remains a disgrace to any
civilized society and is an open invitation to frivolous trials.
Thus, we still have no right to refer to truth if we are indicted
under this article. There have been several attempts to bring Article
266b into accordance with general principles of law, but successive
governments and the parliamentary majority has stubbornly refused."
Hedegaard concluded: "I am delighted that my acquittal sets a limit
to how deeply the state can interfere in private life. The Supreme
Court has clearly upheld the principle that for a statement to be
criminal, it must have been made with the intent of public
dissemination. We may still talk freely in our own homes."
But then he added a qualification: "My personal reaction to more than
two years of fatiguing litigation is that from now on I will be
demanding written guarantees from people who want to talk to me. With
their signatures they must confirm that nothing that I say will be
passed on to the public without my express approval and without me
having had a chance to vet it… I would advise everybody to do the
same for we all know that the prosecutor lies in wait."
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