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Turkish group accuses German paper of insulting Islam

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, Mar 16 (Reuters) A Turkish lobby group today said it has filed a criminal complaint against a German newspaper for printing a series of Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad last month.

It said the complaint was filed with prosecutors in the northern city of Cologne, charging the daily Die Welt with violating Germany's criminal code by printing 12 cartoons of Islam's prophet on February 1, despite global unrest sparked by their initial appearance in a Danish paper.

While freedom of the press is guaranteed by the German constitution, the country's law forbids public insults against religious societies, beliefs and groups that support specific world views.

''It is not the point of a free press to insult the religious sensibilities of nearly 3 million Muslims in Germany with provocations of this kind,'' Abdullah Emil, general secretary of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), said.

Guenther Feld, a public prosecutor in Cologne, where the UETD is based, confirmed receiving the complaint and said he would study it.

Even if the prosecutors decided to formally press charges, Feld told Reuters it was unclear whether it would be handled in Cologne or Hamburg, where the daily's owner, German newspaper publisher Axel Springer, is based.

Axel Springer's spokeswoman, Silvie Rundel, said there were currently no official legal complaints, or complaints by the German media watchdog pending against Die Welt.

Denmark's own public prosecutor decided not to press charges against a newspaper for allegedly violating Denmark's blasphemy law by printing the 12 drawings of the Prophet Mohammad which triggered widespread Muslim anger.

The caricatures, later reprinted in other countries, provoked protests among Muslims who believe it is blasphemous to depict the prophet. At least 50 people were killed in protests in the W Asia and Asia, three Danish embassies were attacked and many Muslims boycotted Danish goods.

Last month a German court convicted a businessman of insulting Islam by printing the word ''Koran'' on toilet paper and offering it to mosques. He was given a one-year jail sentence, suspended for five years, and ordered to complete 300 hours of community service.

Reuters OM DB2228

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