04/27/2006, 00.00
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Ulemas want extradition of Muhammad cartoon artists

A group of citizens and imams of Karachi have filed charges against the cartoonists and editors who published the Muhammad cartoons, considered blasphemous. The lawyer said: "Now it is up to Interpol to bring the offenders to our courts."

Karachi (AsiaNews) – Police in Karachi have accepted to have register cases against the artists who drew the Muhammad cartoons, held to be blasphemous, and the Danish editor who published them. The charge was filed by Iqbal Haider, a lawyer representing a group of citizens and imams of Karachi called Awami Himayat Tehrik [People's Support Movement].

Among those accused were Internet giants like Yahoo, Hotmail, and Google, "for allowing access to the drawings of the blasphemous cartoons". The lawyer also submitted charges against several newspapers in France, Italy, Ireland, Norway and the Netherlands that republished the cartoons, and got the go-ahead to take the case to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. "It is now the government's job to contact the Interpol and bring the offenders to a court of law in Pakistan," Haider said.

However, the government attorney general, Makhdoom Ali Khan, said: "Pakistan's courts have no jurisdiction over the case, anyhow it would have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt."

The story all started with the publication of the 12 notorious satirical cartoons of Muhammad, by the Jyllands-Posten in September. One, for example, features the prophet with a turban shaped like a bomb, another has him telling suicide bombers arriving in the clouds that "there are no virgins left", making fun of the prize waiting for martyrs in their Islamic paradise.

Hardly anyone in the Islamic world has seen the cartoons, but accusations launched by political and media figures paved the way for increasingly widespread, violent reactions by Islamic groups around the world. In Pakistan alone, protests and clashes that went on for weeks, leaving six people dead, including an eight-year-old boy.

The Pakistani penal code considers the publication of the Muhammad cartoons – portrayed positively or negatively – as a crime. The so-called blasphemy law is listed in article 295 b & c of the Pakistani penal code. The first carries life sentences for offences against the Koran and the second sets the death penalty or life imprisonment for defamatory actions against the prophet Muhammad.

Since 1986, the year the law entered into force, dozens of Christians have been killed for defaming Islam, 560 people were charged with the crime and 30 are awaiting judgment. Often the law is used to settle personal scores.

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