Danish newspapers reprinted the controversial cartoon of the Muslim prophet Mohammed Wednesday in defiance of Islamic extremism and to defend freedom of expression.
The republication of the cartoon in at least 17 newspapers took place a day after a Danish official foiled an alleged plot to assassinate Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who drew the Mohammed caricatures. Three people accused of plotting to kill Westergaard were arrested Tuesday.
"We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper always will defend," said the conservative Berlingske Tidende, one of the newspapers in Denmark that reprinted the cartoon, according to The Associated Press.
"Freedom of expression gives you the right to think, to speak and to draw what you like…no matter how many terrorist plots there are," said a Tidende editorial, according to Agence France-Presse.
Newspapers in Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands also republished the drawing Wednesday, but as part of their coverage of the Danish arrests.
The Mohammed cartoons were first printed in the Danish newspaper Jullands-Posten in September 2005. One of the 12 cartoons depicts the Muslim prophet wearing a bomb as a turban with a lit fuse.
There was no strong reaction to the drawings until a few months later when they were reprinted in several other European newspapers.
Muslims around the world by the tens of thousands demonstrated against the cartoons for what they interpreted as blasphemy. The cartoons depicted the image of a prophet. They also saw the drawings as calling their prophet a terrorist. The cartoonist denies accusations that he meant to directly criticize the Muslim prophet Mohammed, but said he was rather trying to say that some people exploited the prophet to legitimize terror.
Dozens of people died as a result of Mohammed cartoon protests, including those in Nigeria, Libya and Pakistan. Churches in Lebanon and Nigeria were also attacked during the riots.
Danish embassies in predominantly Muslim countries, such as Indonesia and Pakistan, were also burned or attacked.
The Mohammed cartoonist has been under police protection until further notice after authorities discovered the plot to kill him. One of the suspects, a Danish citizen of Moroccan origin, was released Tuesday after questioning. The other two, Tunisians, are to be expelled from Denmark because they are considered threats to national security