World

Swedish cartoonist, who was threatened with assassination after ridiculing Mohammad, dies in car crash

A special prosecutor investigation is underway in Sweden after a controversial cartoonist, living under police protection because Islamists threatened to kill him for blaspheming Mohammed, was killed in a collision Sunday between an unmarked police car and a truck.

Two police officers assigned to protect Lars Vilks, 75, were also killed in the crash on a busy highway in southern Sweden. The driver of the truck survived and was airlifted to hospital.Swedish police said that since police officers were involved, the special prosecutor’s office would investigate the incident and their actions.

“That a person we set out to protect, and the lives of our two colleagues, ended in this tragedy, is incomprehensible and heartbreaking,” said the chief of police for the southern region, Carina Persson.

According to Sweden’s Expressen evening newspaper, the highway lanes are separated by barriers, yet according to its information, the police vehicle had somehow crossed into the oncoming lane, collided with and became wedged under the truck, catching fire. Swedish minister for culture and democracy Amanda Lind called it “unspeakably sad” that Vilks’ life would end in this way.

For almost 15 years Vilks lived under threats of death, since a regional newspaper in Sweden published a sketch depicting a dog with the head of a bearded man wearing a turban – supposedly a portrayal of Islam’s 7th century founder. The article in the Nerikes Allehanda paper in 2007 was focused on freedom of expression, and argued that the right to freedom of religion and “the right to ridicule a religion” go together in a free society.

Over the years since, Vilks was the target of several assassination attempts and plots before his death. In 2010, U.S. federal authorities unsealed an indictment against a Pennsylvania woman accused of trying to recruit others for a plot to kill Vilks. In 2015 a gunman opened fire on a café in Copenhagen, Denmark where Vilks was participating in a debate on free speech [CNS News].

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: NEW YORK TIMES

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