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Friday, July 1, 2022

Sweden: Cartoonist Wilkes’ fatal car accident was an accident

STOCKHOLM ( Associated Press) — The police car crash that killed Swedish artist Lars Vilks last year in Sweden was an accident, Swedish authorities said Wednesday, not a targeted attack on the cartoonist who followed his controversial sketch of the prophet Muhammad in 2007. He lived under police protection.

Swedish authorities said in a statement that a burst tire caused the driver of the unmarked police car carrying Vilks to lose control of the vehicle, which crashed head-on with a truck on October 4. Three people, including a 75-year-old cartoonist, died in the accident.

As Wilkes was facing death threats to his paintings and previous attempts at his life, the accident raised the question of whether the accident was a terrorist attack rather than an accident.

But the Swedish Prosecuting Authority said it was “a tragic accident” as it announced the closure of the October 4 crash investigation with “comprehensive analysis, on-the-spot technical investigations and interrogation of witnesses”.

“In short, it is most likely that a tire burst on the police vehicle and then the driver lost control of the vehicle, which veered to the other side of the road and collided head-on with the truck,” said chief prosecutor Per Nichols. “Comprehensive investigation now shows that no crime has been committed.”

In parallel with the prosecutor’s investigation, the police conducted a preliminary investigation into possible murder in the case. That investigation, which was also closed on Wednesday, concluded it was an accident.

Vilks was largely unknown outside Sweden before he painted the portrait of Muhammad. At home, he was known to have built a sculpture of driftwood in a nature reserve in southern Sweden without permission, triggering a protracted legal battle. That was fined, but the seaside sculpture—wooden jumbled together in chaotic fashion—still attracts thousands of visitors a year.

The artist’s life changed radically after he made a sketch of Muhammad with the body of a dog. Dogs are considered unclean by Orthodox Muslims, and Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the Prophet, even favourable, for fear it might lead to idolatry.

Al-Qaeda placed a bounty on Wilkes’ head. In 2010, two men tried to burn down her home in southern Sweden and in 2014 a Pennsylvania woman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kill her.

The following year, Wilkes attended a free speech symposium in Copenhagen, Denmark, which was attacked by a lone gunman who killed a Danish film director and injured three police officers.

Vicks, widely believed to be the target of that 2015 attack, was chased away by bodyguards. The gunman later killed a Jewish security guard outside a synagogue and wounded two more officers before being killed in a gunfight with police.

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Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
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