Islamophobe Dutch MP cancels offensive cartoon contest

Geert Wilders has a history of inflammatory stunts against Islam. (AFP)
Updated 31 August 2018

Islamophobe Dutch MP cancels offensive cartoon contest

  • Plans by Wilders to hold a cartoon competition at his party's offices in parliament have stirred anger among Muslims, particularly in Pakistan
  • Man arrested on suspicion of trying to kill Wilders appears in Dutch court

AMSTERDAM: The Islamophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders said on Thursday he was canceling plans to hold a highly inflammatory contest for cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The MP said he would never personally stop his campaign against Islam but the risk to innocents, and of attacks on the Netherlands, stemming from the proposed contest were too great, Reuters reported.

Earlier this week, Dutch police arrested a 26-year-old man suspected of threatening to attack Wilders over his plan.

On Thursday, the suspect briefly appeared in a Dutch court. He "is being suspected of committing a terrorist act, planning to commit murder and incitement," Dutch prosecutors said in a statement.

Police arrested the man at one of The Hague's main railway stations after he posted a film on YouTube saying he planned an attack on Wilders or the Dutch parliament.

The man, believed to be from Pakistan, also called on other Muslims for support.

"Authorities are taking the threat very seriously," the Dutch public prosecution service said in the statement.

"The investigation is ongoing" and the man is in custody "with maximum restrictions" meaning that he is only allowed to consult his lawyer.

Prosecutors did not release the suspect's name, saying at this stage they were reluctant to release further information.

He will remain in custody for another two weeks before a next appearance.

Plans by Wilders, an avowed anti-Islamist, to hold a cartoon competition at his PVV party's offices in parliament have stirred anger among Muslims, particularly in Pakistan.

The Netherlands on Wednesday updated its travel advice to Pakistan urging its citizens "to avoid demonstrations in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi."

"Stay alert and keep a low profile," the travel advice added.

A planned trade mission organized by the Dutch government and private companies in early November has also been postponed "until a later date," the government-run Netherlands Enterprise Agency said in a separate statement.

Wilders in June announced plans to stage a cartoon competition in parliament later this year to draw the Prophet Mohammed. He claims he has received 200 entries so far.

The Dutch competition's winner is set to receive a cash prize, Wilders said adding that the competition is not to "provoke or insult."

"We are organizing the competition because the freedom of speech is the most important freedom we have," he said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte however has distanced his government from the cartoon competition, saying it was not a government initiative.

Rutte last week said he supported free speech in the Netherlands but believed the cartoon competition "not respectful" and aimed only to provoke.

"The aim is to provoke, rather than stimulate a debate about Islam," Rutte said – but he added Wilders was free to air his opinions.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan thousands of people demonstrated against the contest, in a march organized by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, which also called on Pakistan and other countries to sever all ties with the Netherlands.

Images of Prophet Muhammad are forbidden in Islam as idolatrous and caricatures are regarded by most Muslims as highly offensive.

In 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad that sparked a wave of protest across the Muslim world that led to scores of deaths.

MH17 probe reveals close ties between Russia, Ukraine rebels

Updated 14 November 2019

MH17 probe reveals close ties between Russia, Ukraine rebels

  • The Joint Investigation Team issued a fresh appeal for witnesses and revealed details of secure communications between Russian officials and rebels

THE HAGUE: An international team of investigators piecing together a criminal case in the July 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine said Thursday that evidence suggests links between Russia and separatists in the region were closer than previously believed.
The Joint Investigation Team issued a fresh appeal for witnesses and revealed details of secure communications between Russian officials and rebels in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) rebel group in eastern Ukraine.
“The JIT has information that indicates that the influence of the Russian Federation extended to administrative, financial and military matters in the DPR,” the team said in a statement, adding that contacts between Russia and the rebels intensified in the first half of July 2014.
“There was almost daily telephone contact between the leadership of the DPR and their contacts in the Russian Federation,” the JIT said. “They spoke with leaders in Moscow, near the border with Ukraine and in Crimea. Communication mostly took place via secure telephones provided by the Russian security service.”
In June, the investigators announced they had charged four people, including three Russians, with murder over the July 17, 2014, downing of Flight MH17. All 298 passengers and crew on board the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight were killed.
The suspects are due to go on trial in a secure courtroom near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in March, though they are not in custody and will likely be tried in their absence.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the downing.
But investigators said their probe revealed that “Russian influence on the DPR went beyond military support.”
The team, made up of detectives and prosecutors from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine, last year said it was convinced that the Buk missile system used to shoot down flight MH17 came from the Russian army’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade, based in the Russian city of Kursk.
The team said Thursday it is looking for witnesses “who can share information about those who controlled the DPR leadership in Donetsk and commanded the deployment of the Buk” missile system.
“The indications for close ties between leaders of the DPR and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment” of the missile, the investigators said.