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Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 15:43 UK

Arabs charged over Dutch cartoon

Geert Wilders (file)
The group said Geert Wilders was treated more leniently

An Arab organisation is to be put on trial in the Netherlands over its publication of a cartoon deemed offensive to Jews, prosecutors say.

The cartoon, published by the Arab European League (AEL) on its website, questions the Holocaust.

It said the decision to prosecute illustrated bias against Muslims.

It said the same standards were not applied to the Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who made a film including cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Last month prosecutors said they would not put the far-right MP on trial for distributing the controversial Danish cartoons, which caused a storm of protest after their publication in 2005.

Freedom of expression is only a pretext to make life bitter for Muslims
Abdoulmouthalib Bouzerda
AEL chairman

However, he is still being investigated separately for inciting hatred against Muslims by making statements comparing Islam to Nazism.

But Dutch prosecutors said the AEL cartoon was "discriminatory" and "offensive to Jews as a group... because it offends Jews on the basis of their race and/or religion".

The cartoon shows two men standing near a pile of bones at "Auswitch" (sic). One says "I don't think they're Jews".

The other replies: "We have to get to the six million somehow."

A spokeswoman for the prosecuting authority said the group could be fined up to 4,700 euros (£4,100), though in theory a prison sentence was also possible.

'Perverse'

AEL chairman Abdoulmouthalib Bouzerda said the charges proved "what Muslims have been saying for decades".

"Freedom of expression is only a pretext to make life bitter for Muslims... and if [they] try to bring this hypocrisy to light, that right is denied them."

The AEL says it does not deny the facts of the Holocaust but posted the cartoon as an "act of civil disobedience".

It said it had agreed to remove it from its site, but reversed that decision to protest over the failure to prosecute Geert Wilders.

"Double standards are being applied," it said in a statement.

But Jewish groups said it was not reasonable for the group to express its opposition to alleged bias against Muslims, by attacking Jews.

Ronny Naftaniel of the Center for Documentation on Israel, said: "Imagine if Dutch Jews insulted Muslims every time they heard an anti-Semitic remark. What kind of perverse world would we be living in?"

Tensions over the Netherlands' Muslim population have increased in recent years, notably since the killing of a controversial film-maker by a Muslim extremist in 2004.



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