Copenhagen, Denmark — A Danish court Thursday dismissed a defamation lawsuit against a newspaper that first published the Prophet Muhammad cartoons that touched off protests in the Islamic world.
The City Court in Aarhus rejected claims by seven Danish Muslim groups who said the 12 drawings printed in Jyllands-Posten were meant to insult the Prophet and make a mockery of Islam.
Islamic law forbids any depiction of the Prophet, even positive ones, to prevent idolatry.
"It cannot be ruled out that the drawings have offended some Muslims' honor," the court said. But it added there was no basis to assume that "the purpose of the drawings was to present opinions that can belittle Muslims."
Jyllands-Posten's editor said the decision was a victory for freedom of speech. The Danish Muslims who filed suit said they would appeal the ruling, which was criticized by some Muslim leaders outside Denmark.
The newspaper published the cartoons on Sept. 30, 2005, with an accompanying text saying it was challenging a perceived self-censorship among artists afraid to offend Islam.
The caricatures were reprinted in January and February in European newspapers, fueling protests in the Islamic world. Some turned violent, with protesters killed in Libya and Afghanistan.
Jyllands-Posten's editor in chief, Carsten Juste, said the ruling confirmed the newspaper's "incontestable right" to print the drawings.
"Everything but a pure acquittal would have been a disaster for the press freedom and the media's possibility to fulfill its duties in a democratic society," Juste said.