Cartoonist Makes First Appearance Since Attack

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks makes his first public appearance in Copenhagen after surviving last month's attack.

Ben Ariel,

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks
Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks on Saturday made his first public appearance in Copenhagen after surviving an attack last month in the Danish capital, local media reported, according to AFP.

The 68-year-old cartoonist, who whipped up an outcry across the Muslim world with his 2007 sketch of the Prophet Mohammed as a dog, had lived in a secret location since the February 14 attempt on his life.

A Dane of Palestinian Arab origin had fired a series of shots at a Copenhagen cultural centre that was hosting a debate on free speech attended by the cartoonist, killing a filmmaker.

The gunman, Omar El-Hussein, later shot dead a Jewish man outside a synagogue before he was killed by police.

On Saturday, Vilks emerged in public to receive a prize awarded by a Danish association promoting free speech called Trykkefrihedsselskabet.

The ceremony was held under tight police surveillance at the Christianborg Castle, which also houses the parliament and other Danish institutions, Danish news agency Ritzau reported.

Vilks described himself not as an activist for freedom of speech but as a symbol.

"They say of me: he fights for freedom of expression, he does not give in. But the reality is the opposite: I am the most passive of them all," he said, according to Ritzau.

"I have now inherited this role of being the symbol of the freedom of expression," he added.

After the attack, Vilks said that Danish police had underestimated the terrorist threat since January's Paris attacks.

"The attacker had good weapons, he had better weapons than the police... There was an escalation since the Charlie Hebdo attacks (in Paris) and the Danes had not caught onto that," Vilks said.