As reported here last Friday, the “hate speech” conviction of the historian and journalist Lars Hedegaard has been overturned by the Danish Supreme Court. Below is an account of the case from Sappho.dk, as translated by the editors.
Free Press Society President acquitted by unanimous Supreme Court
This verdict is not necessarily a victory for free speech, says Lars Hedegaard
By the Editors of Sappho.dk
(COPENHAGEN, 20 April 2012) A panel of seven Supreme Court justices led by Chief Justice Børge Dahl has acquitted Free Press Society President Lars Hedegaard, who stood accused of intentionally denigrating Muslims.
In a press release the Court states that “there has been no basis for convicting him of intentionally disseminating his remarks to a wider audience”. Consequently, the Court can find no grounds for remitting the case for re-trial in Superior Court, which convicted Lars Hedegaard after he had been found not guilty in the lower court.
“I’m satisfied that the Supreme Court has delivered a verdict in accordance with the evidence given in lower and superior court. The prosecution had this evidence before it decided to press charges so I cannot understand why it went ahead.
“The prosecutor has burdened the courts and the taxpayers needlessly for more than two years.”
The truth still doesn’t count
Lars Hedegaard goes on:
“This judgment is not necessarily a victory for free speech. Article 266b, under which I was charged, remains unchanged. It remains a disgrace to any civilised society and is an open invitation to frivolous trials. Thus, we still have no right to refer to truth if we are indicted under this article.
“There have been several attempts to make 266b conform to normal standards of justice but successive governments and parliamentary majorities have steadfastly refused.
“I am, however, happy that my acquittal means that at least the Supreme Court has set a limit to how deeply the State may penetrate one’s private life. The Supreme Court has clearly upheld the principle that for a statement to be criminal, it must have been made with the intent of public dissemination. We may still talk freely in our own homes.”
Continued struggle against 266b
“My personal reaction to more than two years of fatiguing litigation is to demand written guarantees from people who want to talk to me. With their signatures they must confirm that nothing be passed on without my express approval and without me having had a chance to vet it. This goes whether people are journalists or not.
“I would advise everybody to do the same for we all know that the prosecutor lies in wait.
The Free Press Society will strengthen its struggle against the penal code’s despicable article 266b.”