Somali `innocent` in Danish cartoonist attack

The man `only wanted to scare` Kurt Westergaard for caricaturing the Prophet.

Copenhagen: A Somali man who axed his way into the home of a Danish cartoonist says he only wanted to scare Kurt Westergaard for caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed.

The 29-year-old defendant, who cannot be named under a court order, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a terrorism charge stemming from the intrusion on New Year`s Day, 2010. He was also charged with attempted murder for throwing the axe at police when they confronted him.

Westergaard locked himself inside a panic room and was unharmed in the attack.

Prosecutor Kirsten Dyrman told the court in Aarhus, Denmark`s second largest city, that the defendant intended to kill Westergaard when he broke into the house. The crime should be viewed as terrorism because it was meant to "seriously frighten the population" and destabilise Denmark, Dyrman said.

The defendant told a packed courtroom that the axe was not intended for Westergaard but only to get into his home because he didn`t expect that the cartoonist would let him in.

Westergaard`s drawing was one of 12 cartoons of Mohammed published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005, triggering a firestorm of protests across the Muslim world four months later.

The defendant, who described himself as a "devout Muslim”, said he decided to break into Westergaard`s home after reading on the Internet that the 75-year-old Dane "was proud of the drawing and wanted to do more”. He thought that "if I threaten and scare him, maybe he will behave better in the future”.

The defendant, wearing jeans and a blue sweater and sporting a goatee, said he had no intention to hurt Westergaard, who is expected to testify on Thursday.

"If I had managed to knock in the door, I would have run away," he told the court later Wednesday.

When quizzed by defence lawyer Niels Christian Straus whether he wanted to kill Westergaard, he replied, "Well then I would have brought a handgun, with which it is easier to kill someone."

The Somali has a residence permit in Denmark, where he has lived since 1996.

The prosecutor said the Danish intelligence agency started monitoring him by mid-2009 because of his frequent trips to Somalia where he claimed he was involved in "humanitarian aid projects”.

After the attack, the agency said he had links with the Somali militant group al-Shabab and al Qaeda leaders in eastern Africa. A spokesman in Somalia for al-Shabab denied the man is a member of the group.

If convicted of terror, the defendant could face life in prison, although such sentences are generally reduced to 16 years under Danish law.

He was shot in the knee by police when they confronted him as he left Westergaard`s home. Police say they opened fire when the man hurled the axe at an officer.

The defendant admitted using violence against the police but rejected that it amounted to attempted murder.

A verdict is expect in early February.

Bureau Report

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