Turkey confirms release of Islam critic’s assailant

Turkish officials told a Danish delegation that the 27-year-old man accused of trying to execute Lars Hedegaard has been released from prison, but both the Hedegaard and the justice minister are demanding more answers.

Turkey confirms release of Islam critic's assailant
Lars Hedegaard said Turkey is avoiding both international law and common decency. Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Scanpix
A Danish delegation that travelled to Turkey has returned home with a confirmation that the man who attempted to assassinate Islam critic Lars Hedegaard has indeed been released from prison as suspected. What the delegation did not find out, however, was exactly why he was released. 
Denmark’s newly-named justice minister, Mette Frederiksen, addressed the release in a written statement. 
“I understand that the recent rumours that a Danish citizen was released have been confirmed by the Turkish authorities. I find it completely incomprehensible that the man in question has been released,” she wrote.
Frederiksen added that Turkey did not give an official reason for the release. According to some reports, Hedegaard’s would-be assassin was handed over to the terrorist group Isis as part of a prisoner swap. 
“I had expected that the Turkish authorities would have been prepared to give more answers than the delegation received… But I understand that officials from Turkey are working on giving Denmark answers as soon as possible. The government will naturally hold Turkey to that,” Frederiksen said. 
The man in question is ‘BH’, a 27-year-old Danish citizen with a Lebanese background. In February 2013, BH posed as a postal employee delivering a package to Hedegaard. When Hedegaard opened his front door, BH pulled a gun and fired a shot that missed its target. The two men then struggled before BH dropped his gun and ran. He was on the run until April 2014, when he was arrested in Turkey. 
Hedegaard, who last week declared that he would run for parliament as a political independent, strongly criticised both the man’s release and the way Turkey has thus far handled the situation. 
“It is scandalous and cheeky of Turkey that we needed to send a Danish delegation all the way down there just to find out what they could have told us a week ago,” Hedegaard told DR.
“The Turks have placed themselves outside of the regular legal system and with this decision they have also placed themselves outside of common decency,” he added. 
In an interview earlier this month, Hedegaard told The Local that he remains convinced that it was his outspoken criticism of Islam that led to the assassination attempt. 
“I have no doubt at all, but I’d be interested in hearing his explanation. I don’t know him, he doesn’t know me. I’ve had no dealings with him, I haven’t stolen his money or screwed his wife – so what would his motivation then be?” he told The Local. 
Among Hedegaard’s controversial comments about Islam was the implication that all Muslim males rape their female family members. That comment resulted in a racism charge that the Supreme Court ultimately acquitted him on. 

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Danish politicians demand freeze on weapons exports to Turkey

Denmark should follow the example of Nordic neighbours Norway and Sweden and halt weapons exports to Turkey, two left-wing parties in parliament have demanded.

Danish politicians demand freeze on weapons exports to Turkey
Pia Olsen Dyhr in parliament. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

The Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) and Socialist People’s Party (SF), part of a three-party group which props up the Social Democratic government, made the calls after Norway and Sweden both announced they would move to suspend all new arms exports to Turkey.

The decisions from Oslo and Stockholm came country after Turkey launched a military offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

“We must absolutely follow Norway and Sweden’s examples and ensure we immediately stop all weapon sales to Turkey from Denmark, and recommend to the EU next week a full European freeze on weapons exports,” Red Green Alliance foreign spokesperson Eva Flyvholm said.

SF’s leader Pia Olsen Dyhr echoed those sentiments.

“Denmark should, like other Nordic countries, stop all export of military equipment. We cannot justify selling weapons to a country which uses them against an ally in the fight against international terrorism,” Dyhr said in an email to Ritzau.

“We can’t stop Erdogan’s aggressive behaviour alone. So we need other European countries to join us,” she added.

The third government ally, the Social Liberals, have taken a more cautious position, with foreign policy spokesperson Martin Lidegaard advocating options for a joint EU response be drafted.

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