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Fri 15 Aug 2008 09:29 AM

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Cartoonist 'ready' for blasphemy trial in Jordan

Danish illustrator behind Prophet Mohammed caricature would welcome Amman invite.

Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard is ready to stand trial in Jordan over his controversial caricature depicting the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.

A Jordanian prosecutor summoned Westergaard for questioning in June after local media outlets sued him over his cartoon, which was republished in at least 17 Danish dailies in February, sparking violent protests in Muslim countries, including the kingdom.

"I would like to go to Amman to stand trial. However, what I fear is that I am convicted in advance," Westergaard told the government-owned Jordan Times in Copenhagen.

But he added that he has not been officially notified of the summons and defended his cartoon, saying he sought to "highlight that there are some terrorists who misuse Islam and they take it as their spiritual ammunition."

"I wanted to depict the terrorists as if they were taking the Prophet Mohammed as a hostage. I have no problem with Islam but with the terrorists," he said.

Toger Seidenfaden, chief editor of the centre-left Danish daily Politiken, one of the 17 newspapers that reprinted the cartoon, said the paper had received no summons from Amman and did not know if there would even be a trial.

"(If there was a trial) and if there were guarantees, we would take part in it," he said.

Westergaard, who has been in hiding because of death threats, insisted that he respects Islam but "will not apologise."

"I respect Islam and its followers and I have nothing against it... however, I will not apologise. We have freedom of the press and religion in Denmark... I can't apologise, I respect Islam and I did not target it," he said.

At least 30 independent newspapers, websites and radio stations in Jordan sued Westergaard in April for "blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed and Islam as well as sowing religious and sectarian discord" and violating Internet and publication laws.

"We welcome his reasonable approach, but in our opinion this person has committed a crime and should be punished," Zakarya Sheikh, who heads the media group, told AFP.

MPs have demanded that the government sever ties with Denmark, and Amman has condemned the caricature, warning that it could spark further extremism and harm relations between Denmark and Muslim countries.

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