Artists to Face Extradition for Blasphemy?
If Ireland revives its blasphemy laws, Irish artists and other citizens could face extradition to States like Greece or Turkey under the terms of the 2004 European Arrest Warrant. This allows one State to issue warrants for the arrest of citizens of another State, if the crime involved is a crime in both jurisdictions.
Already, in 2005, an Austrian cartoonist has faced extradition to Greece on blasphemy charges, when a book of his cartoons was published there. And Turkey, which may soon be a European Union member, is this month trying a novelist for blasphemy. This is yet another reason stop the proposed Irish blasphemy law.
The European Arrest Warrant
The European Arrest Warrant was introduced to speed up the extradition of suspected or convicted criminals between European Union countries. Some crimes are automatically covered by the act, such as terrorism, fraud, child pornography, racketeering and murder. Other crimes can also be covered, if they attract a 12 month prison sentence in the country seeking the extradition, and if the offence is also a crime in the country where the person whose extradition is sought is living.
The case of Gerhard Haderer
In 2002, Austrian cartoonist Gerhard Haderer wrote a book of cartoons satirising the life of Jesus. The book sold well in Germany, and was translated into 10 international languages. When it was published in Greece, it was banned, and Haderer was charged with blasphemy. In January 2005, he was convicted of blasphemy in his absence, and was given a six-month suspended prison sentence. The Greek courts then sought his arrest under the terms of the European Arrest Warrant.
Because blasphemy remains an offence in the Austrian legal code, Hadarer could not automatically escape the decision of the Greek court. He appealed his conviction in Greece, risking a two-year prison sentence in doing so. Fortunately, the Greek Supreme Court overturned the original decision, and Hadarer was free. But, despite being an Austrian citizen living in Austria, his freedom had been determined by decisions made in Greece about the Greek interpretation of blasphemy laws.
The case of Nedim Gursel
Later this month, on June 25, a Turkish author will be tried for blasphemy because he wrote a novel that questions the ideas of belief and violence in Islam. Nedim Gursel Says that his book, “Daughters of Allah”, is a work of fiction and that his extensive research included consultation with religious leaders. Nevertheless, he faces up to a year in jail if convicted, because a Turkish citizen complained that he had used inappropriate language against the Prophet Muhammad, his wives and the Koran.
In April, Gursel wrote a public letter to the Turkish Prime Minister, in which he noted the damage that such trials could cause to Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union. No doubt the supporters of Turkey’s blasphemy laws would be delighted if they could counter this by pointing to Dermot Ahern’s revival of the Irish blasphemy laws. And maybe, in the future, Turkey can celebrate its entry to the European Union by extraditing an Irish citizen to spend time in a Turkish prison for blasphemy.