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Muslim group cleared over Holocaust cartoon

Last updated 08:53 24/04/2010

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A Dutch court has acquitted a Muslim group of inciting hatred with a cartoon that questions the Holocaust, in the latest case to provoke debate about freedom of speech in the Netherlands.

The Arab European League (AEL), which published the cartoon on its website, was cleared of insulting Jews because it was not aiming to dispute the Holocaust but to highlight perceived double standards in free speech.

The AEL cartoon shows two men, beneath an 'Auschwitz' sign and beside several bodies, saying the victims might not have been Jewish but the target was six million - the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The AEL said the cartoon was part of a campaign it launched in 2006 to show "the double morals of the West during the Danish cartoon affair." The image came with a disclaimer on the website saying the AEL did not support the views of the cartoon.

"The context in which this cartoon was published takes away from its criminally offensive nature," the court said in a ruling published on its website Thursday.

A cartoon in a Danish newspaper in 2005 showing Islam's Prophet Mohammad with a bomb in his turban sparked violent protests in Muslim countries. The backlash prompted the newspaper to apologise, but the Danish government defended its right to freedom of expression.

As a supporter of free speech, the AEL did not complain about the republication of the Prophet Mohammad cartoons in the Netherlands. But it argued its own cartoon was meant to show that other religious communities were also sensitive about certain images.

Tensions over immigration and the rights of religious groups are increasingly testing the attitudes of the liberal Dutch.

A spate of recent cases have struck at the heart of the Dutch constitution, raising questions about when free speech crosses the line and becomes discrimination.

Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders is facing charges of inciting hatred against Muslims.

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- Reuters

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