onsdag den 8. september 2010

Good news for Sakineh, also for Kurt - and no book burnings, please!

Three comments:

- Good news for Sakineh and other victims of Iranian sharia injustice and also

- Good news for freedom of expression and the peaceful resistance against Islamic censorship,

- and no to book burnings, please!

yet another victory for freedom of expression of political cartoonists: Kurt Westergaard, one of the Danish Muhammad Cartoonists has just been awarded a Press Freedom Prize in Germany, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel with her memories form the dictatorial, totalitarian DDR, has stated that at least one European government shall stand firm by the cartoonists’ rights to publish drawings containing criticism of religions including criticism of Islam! I admire Kurt also for his speech at the ceremony, and for his courage to take the heat and attention from the other Danish cartoonists under Islamic death threat - he always says, he does not mind to take the blame and the anger as he has lived long, implying the other younger cartoonists would hopefully be forgotten as targets for Islamic militants as they evade press attention. I wrote this regarding those advocating for Quran/Kuran burnings: Give amnesty to the book, sentence it to life on library bookshelf - criticize the content of the book by words, not by flames. Instead, bring the prophet and his tyrannical heir, the Islamic Imperialism, for the International Court of Justice and try them for their crimes against humanity. I was as a teenager involuntary witness to the Iranian Islamic Republic's book burnings on the streets in front of the University of Tehran, and since that time I've developed a kind of parental care for books - let's face it, it is not the book itself to blame for the inhumane and violent words of the writers of that book. Also to preserve a minimum of common diplomatic rules, no burnings of books, flags etc., please!

Pedram Kazemi-Esfarjani, member elect of Fritiran, secular liberal minority

Merkel to honor Mohammed cartoonist at press award
Danish cartoonist Westergaard, who sparked anger in the Muslim world with his caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, arrives for a news conference befor Reuters – Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who sparked anger in the Muslim world with his caricatures of the …
By Stephen Brown and Knut Engelmann Stephen Brown And Knut Engelmann – 2 hrs 57 mins ago

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel risked angering Muslims by speaking at an awards ceremony on Wednesday for a Dane whose cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed provoked sometimes violent protests by Muslims five years ago.

The 75-year-old cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, whose drawings of Mohammed that offended Muslims worldwide first appeared in Danish paper Jyllands-Posten in 2005, was due to receive a prize on Wednesday evening at a conference on freedom of the press.

At a time of fierce debate in Germany over disparaging remarks about Muslim immigrants made by a central bank member, some Muslims criticized the center-right chancellor and the media said she was taking a risk by honoring a man whom many Muslims believe insulted their faith.

Aiman Mazyek of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany said in a statement: "Merkel is honoring the cartoonist who in our view trampled on our Prophet and trampled on all Muslims."

"By having her photo taken next to Kurt Westergaard, Merkel is taking a huge risk," wrote the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung before the ceremony.

"It will probably be the most explosive appointment of her chancellorship so far."

The mass-circulation Bild, which has voiced admiration for Bundesbank member Thilo Sarrazin for depicting Turkish and Arab immigrants as welfare spongers who fail to integrate, praised Westergaard and said Merkel's presence showed Germany "does not back down in the face of threats from Islamist fanatics."

Organizers of the M100 Media Prize to be awarded at Potsdam near Berlin said the cartoons had "triggered an international controversy about freedom of speech and sparked worldwide, partly violent demonstrations of Muslims who felt insulted."

Most Muslims consider any depiction of the founder of Islam to be offensive, and the Danish cartoons portrayed Mohammed with a turban shaped like a bomb. At least 50 people died in ensuing riots by enraged Muslims in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Westergaard stood by his work "invoking the right to freedom of speech," said the M100 prize committee, praising the Dane's "courage to stand by these democratic values and defend them, notwithstanding threats of violence and death."

The Organizers issued a statement from Merkel saying that, at a time when Germany is marking 20 years of unity after the fall of East Germany's communist regime, her country was "still conscious of what the lack of freedom implies."

Conservatives in Berlin's city assembly threw out a member for inviting Dutch anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders to speak next month.

But Wilders said he would "of course" still speak in the German capital despite the action taken by Merkel's Christian Democrats against councilor Rene Stadtkewitz, telling Reuters in an email he had "respect for Rene Stadtkewitz!"

(Writing by Stephen Brown; additional reporting by Ben Berkowitz in Amsterdam; editing by Paul Taylor)

European pressure mounts on Iran over stoning case

By RAF CASERT, Associated Press Writer Raf Casert, Associated Press Writer – 28 mins ago

BRUSSELS – European Union nations and the continent's biggest human rights organization slammed Iran on Wednesday for its plans to stone a woman convicted of adultery, increasing the global pressure on Tehran over a case it has tried to frame as a criminal matter and not one of human rights.

The plight of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani , a 43-year-old mother of two, has cast a harsh light on Iran's version of Islamic justice and taken multiple twists. Iran says it has put the stoning on hold for now but has also indicated Ashtiani could be hanged for her conviction of playing a role in her husband's 2005 murder.

Even as Iran insists the case is a matter for its own courts and society, the global outcry has grown.

On Wednesday, the European Union Parliament in Strasbourg, France, passed a resolution condemning Tehran, a move that comes on the heels of EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso calling stoning "barbaric." The vote passed by a huge 658-to-1 margin with 22 abstentions. The vote against was an error and was to be amended in the parliamentary records later.

Sweden summoned Iran's ambassador to protest the sentence.

"It is important that we are not passive in a case that - except for her own destiny - has become a symbol for the repression in Iran," Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said. "We are against the death penalty in all cases, but stoning is a specifically vile form of the death penalty."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle released a statement saying he is "deeply worried for Ms. Ashtiani's life."

"Iran has to respect human rights, especially because it committed to do so under international law," Westerwelle said. It is "not a question of religion, but a question of fundamental human dignity."

The sentiments were echoed by the 47-nation Council of Europe, the continent's biggest human rights organization. It called on the Islamic republic's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, to do his utmost to fully repeal the sentence.

"This inhuman sentence and the mistreatment that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is suffering cast a tragic shadow on your country," wrote Mevlut Cavusoglu, President of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly.

On Iran's state-run Press TV, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast repeated previous statements that plans to carry out the stoning have been "stopped" while judiciary officials also study the punishment for Ashtiani's conviction of playing on role in her husband's 2005 murder.

Ashtiani's lawyer, Houtan Javid Kian, told The Associated Press there has been no change in her case and the stoning sentence was suspended but not officially canceled. He has said Ashtiani was never formally put on trial on the charge of being an accomplice to murder and was not allowed to mount a defense.

On Monday, Kian said he had received word that his client was lashed 99 times last week in a separate punishment after British newspaper ran a picture of an unveiled woman mistakenly identified as Ashtiani. The newspaper, the Times of London, apologized for the error.

There has been no official Iranian confirmation of the new punishment.

The Vatican has hinted at the possibility of behind-the-scenes diplomacy to try to save Ashtiani. Some Western officials, including Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, have said they don't believe Iran will carry out the stoning following the international outcry.

But Iran has at times struck a defiant tone. Even an offer of asylum from Brazil - which is on friendly terms with Tehran - went nowhere.

Mehmanparast accused the United States and other Western countries of trying to "exploit" the case and turn it into a "political charade."

"Our country has been under a lot of political pressure by the U.S. and other Western countries over its nuclear work," he noted.

The European Parliament, however, insisted universal human rights were what was at stake.

In its resolution, it said that "a sentence of death by stoning can never be justified."


Associated Press Writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Malin Rising in Stockholm and Juergen Baetz in Berlin contributed to the story.