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Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Cartoon

This is pretty amazing. Imagine you publish a book in Europe where you are protected by the laws of your own country, and that without your knowledge, it gets published in another, less free country. You may be summoned to court in that country, tried in abstentia and sentenced to jail. That's what's happening to Gerhard Haderer, an Austrian cartoonist.

Haderer published a 40-page book titled, The Life of Jesus. The book contained a cartoon of Jesus, depicting him as

...a binge-drinking friend of Jimi Hendrix and naked surfer high on cannabis.

Unbeknownst to him, the book was published in Greece. He found out when he received a summons to appear in court in Athens in January, having been charged with blasphemy.

He was given a six-month suspended sentence in absentia, but if he loses his appeal next month his sentence could be increased to two years. Haderer's book is the first to be banned in Greece for more than 20 years, and he is the first artist to fall prey of the European arrest warrant system since it was introduced in June 2002.

Austrian writers rallied to Haderer's defense at a press conference yesterday, charging that his case is critical to the freedom of international writers. It is unbelievable that a person can write a book in his home country and be condemned and threatened with imprisonment by another," said Nikki Conrad, a human rights expert who organised yesterday's press conference. "But he is not going to just sit back and accept this injustice. He is prepared to take this to the European court of human rights. When Gerhard first got the summons he thought it was a joke. But now he is starting to get a bit nervous."

The Austrian comedian Hubert Kramar, who is next week due to star in a new satirical play about Christ, turned up to the press conference dressed as Jesus. "We are supposed to be living in a democratic society. Greece is in Europe and the whole idea of the European Union is that everything is supposed to be more open. But what happened to Haderer is scaring artists like me," he said.

Haderer is no Johnny-come-lately to writing.

[He is] well known in Germany for his weekly illustrations in the news magazine Stern.

His book has sold 100,000 copies in Germany and been published in six countries besides Greece. You can buy the book through Amazon here. The German page of Amazon has a cover picture of the book.

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  • Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#1)
    by glanton on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 07:57:04 AM EST
    Next up: a summons to appear in Alabama.

    Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#2)
    by pigwiggle on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 08:07:30 AM EST
    Hands up, who’s read the draft EU constitution. In an effort to make law uniform across all member states certain civil liberties some folks have enjoyed will be stripped. For example, the Dutch are a more than a little concerned how they will reconcile their constitutionally protected freedom of speech with so-called hate speech laws that are common in France, Germany, etc. which will be made uniform. Did the authors of the draft EU constitution reflect on how the simple enumerated powers in the US constitution have been broadly interpreted to cover the fancy of the day? Judge for yourself, the thing sprawls .

    Most of the EU constitution is laying down procedure, not enumerating rights and powers. Europe is a highly developed collection of market economies with a population of 300m people. We can't afford a hundred years or more of constitutional wrangling and civil war to settle constitutional disputes. That said, the thing is indeed a sprawling mess and a wasted opportunity. On the other hand, I don't know what your point is about the Dutch. The Netherlands already has laws against hate speech. Holocaust denial is illegal and the the leaders of a far right political party were jailed specifically for its racist political platform.

    That cartoonist should be ashamed of himself. He should have known Jimi Hendrix never met Jesus. Send him to Volokh. He knows exactly how to deal with such egregiously repulsive monsters.

    I like Haderer's Jesus. He answers the question WWJD in several interesting scenarios. I wonder if D.H. Lawrence's "The man who Died" is published in Greece. This book depicts Jesus as a regular guy who simply woke up, walked out of the cave and rejected the deification offered by his disciples. He then hooks up with the "heathen" Isis.

    Just goes to show that even the vaunted EU needs some serious work.

    Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 08:41:05 AM EST
    Blasphemy? That is just sooo 15th century. Glad to know we aren't the only country with a jesus problem.

    Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#8)
    by Dadler on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 09:58:42 AM EST
    the friggin' bible SAYS he was considered a wine-lover!

    Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 10:14:31 AM EST
    I've heard some evidence that suggests the annointing oils used by Jesus and his disciples contained cannabis. War on Drugs=War on Jesus?

    on judgement day, if jesus has a problem with the cartoon, i think he can handle it. these religious nuts must think gods pretty weak if he can't handle this stuff

    I just read a comment that Jesus is big enough to handle this..I agree...and it looks like he just did. Can I get an Amen...

    Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#13)
    by BigTex on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 11:30:29 AM EST
    Amen sister Anita! Not that I agree with your analysis, but it was funny. This is a good illistration o' why the US didn't join th' World Court vis a vis war crimes. Some country could try th' Sherrif - any current or future sherrif - fer supposed crimes. Not t' stir up Clinton analogies, but when Clinton ordered th' airstrikes t' protect Kosovo (an action I supported, so no need t' say I'm Clinton bashin') th' Chinese embassy was bombed. It was an accident t' be sure, but th' Chinese could o' brought charges against Clinton fer authorizin' a strike that hit a neutral target. It's not a wise idea fer countries t' be allowed t' try citizens o' a different country fer actions that didn't take place in that country in abstentia. Stoppin' somethin' like this is what th' world court should be used fer, it should be a shield.

    Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#14)
    by cp on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 01:08:17 PM EST
    actually, and if i'm mistaken, i'm sure TL will correct me, we have a law that allows us to do something similar here: the foreign torts act, or foreign claims act. something like that. damn, i wish i'd gone to law school, before i had children! lol an individual, harmed in a foreign country, can come to the u.s., and sue in federal court. you needn't be a citizen of the u.s. i'm not supporting the greek government, which i think put its foot in its mouth, merely pointing out that it's not unique in this regard.

    you're right anita, jesus did handle it. he made greeks look like idiots, and made sure the cartoonist sold a lot more of his work. him and jimi are laughing at you right now

    Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#16)
    by Che's Lounge on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 02:14:13 PM EST
    Our entire species is infested with religious fanatics.

    amen to that che. i can see judgement day now. jesus sees the cartoonist first and says "hey dude that was pretty funny, come and have a brewski with jimi, hunter and i". then he spots anita and says"you supported bush, so you're one of the ones responsible for the murder of over a 100,000 men women and children! you're responsible for torture!! you're responsible for the destruction of the environment of the beautiful planet i made for you!!!" 5 minutes later......... snap, crackle, pop. the sound of anita burning in hell. but, on the upside, you, bush, ashcroft and bush's other toadies can sit around one of the numerous fires, and sing "soar like an eagle"

    ooops, i meant "let the eagle soar"

    Anyone remember the Dmitry Sklyarov case?

    Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#20)
    by desertswine on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 03:01:13 PM EST
    Anyone remember the Dmitry Sklyarov case?
    No. I can barely remember the Boris Badinoff case.

    Right now I'm so ashamed being Greek...

    As an Austrian, I'm quite familiar with Haderer's work. And to be frank, the book in question is by far not his best one. That does not make the conviction ok, but if you really want to sample his work, go for some other book of him.

    Dmitry Sklyarov Wasn't he the Russian software writer who got arrested when he was here in this country because he broke some law regarding what software in regards to American law?

    Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#24)
    by jondee on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 04:07:04 PM EST
    Wouldst that they treasured thier fellows the way they do ther dieties.

    I seem to recall that TL applauded the Supreme Court decision to ban the death penalty against minors - and that decision was based, in part, on international legal standards. My point isn't about the outcome, but about how the court got there. Is TL as sanguine about US courts making calls based on foreign law now? Free speech in the US could be destroyed if US courts decide to follow international standards there - Greece, say, or the UK (libel in particular).

    Re: Cartoonist Faces Jail in Greece Over Jesus Car (none / 0) (#26)
    by roy on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 04:27:42 PM EST
    Anyone remember the Dmitry Sklyarov case?
    Russian programmer who was arrested in the U.S. for violating the stupid DMCA whilst in Russia. Slightly different circumstances since Sklyarov apparently intended to distribute the software in America. But if you want to point out that the U.S. screws a similar pooch, I won't disagree. The EFF has lots of info on it.

    Slightly different circumstances since Sklyarov apparently intended to distribute the software in America. And because Skylarov was visiting the US for a computing conference. Based on the article, it looks like the cartoonist can be arrested in Austria under the new EU rules. Previously, the Austrian government could just tell the Greeks to get bent.

    What? anyway people go to prison in Greece for asking questions about the government. but if its a sex cartoon its 50 years for that cartoonist, its not a joke, have any of you been to that part of the world? i mean been to that part of the world, like lived with the people? because in Greece you just don't make fun of Jesus, i mean it people; the Greeks are really into Jesus, and remember to the Greeks its still the Homeric ideals all the way.

    If your faith is so fragile that you can't even let people laugh about it, then you might reconsider what you believe in!