A firm of Saudi lawyers, purportedly acting on behalf of descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, has demanded printed and multi-lingual apologies from Danish newspapers who re-printed cartoons of the Prophet, as well as undertakings that all Internet pictures of the caricatures be removed in perpetuity.
The demand from the Saudi Arabian legal firm of A.Z. Yamani, is contained in letters sent to about a dozen Danish editors-in-chief and gives the end of September as a deadline for compliance.
The A.Z. Yamani firm was founded by Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Saudi Arabia’s former Oil Minister from 1962 and until 1986 when he was summarily dismissed. The letter in question was sent by his lawyer son Faisal Yamani.
The Danish Newspapers Association said at the weekend that it plans to contact the Danish foreign and justice ministries to discuss the issue after finding out exactly how many newspapers had received the letter in question.
Some Danish newspapers re-printed one of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as an illustration in connection with the police discovery of plans to murder Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist who originally produced one of the caricatures.
Demands in the letter from the Yamani lawyers require newspapers who reproduced the cartoons to print an unconditional apology in Danish, Arabic, French and English for having offended alleged descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, as well as undertaking never again to reproduce similar drawings or material. The demand includes a requirement that a front page reference to the apology must also be made.
The Danish Newspaper Association says it doubts that newspapers will comply.
»Everything has to be looked into and it is clear that we will be speaking with the Justice and Foreign ministries in a case like this – but first of all we have to get an overview of the situation«, says Newspaper Association Chairman Ebbe Dahl.
But he adds that the Saudi legal firm’s demands are ‘clearly unacceptable’ and he is in no doubt that newspapers will stand fast.
»It’s completely natural that media use the core of the issue when something like this comes up«, says Dahl referring to the murder plans.
One editor-in-chief has already commented on the letter, rejecting the ultimatum.
»There must be some people who continue to flog this issue. With all due respect for Muslims in Denmark and elsewhere in the world – this is unacceptable«, says Der Nordschleswiger Editor-in-Chief Siegfried Matlok.
Edited by Julian Isherwood