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“The national courts found that Ms S had subjectively labelled Muhammad with paedophilia as his general sexual preference, and that she failed to neutrally inform her audience of the historical background, which consequently did not allow for a serious debate on that issue.” The court considered the woman’s argument that her comments occurred during an objective and lively public debate and were not designed to defame Islam.
It said even comments made in a lively discussion do not come under free speech if they are “packed” with offending statements.
The comments “could only be understood as having been aimed at demonstrating that Muhammad was not worthy of worship”, according to a ECHR statement on its ruling.
The woman “must have been aware that her statements were partly based on untrue facts and apt to arouse indignation in others”.
Some 64.85 per cent voted to remove the reference while 35.15 per cent voted against the change.Several European countries, including Austria where the conviction took place, continue to have strong laws against blasphemy.In Austria, Germany and Poland the offence carries a potential prison sentence as well as a fine.Despite the presence of legalisation against blasphemy on the Irish Statute Book since 2009, no one has ever been prosecuted for the offence in the State. In 2011, she was convicted of disparaging religious doctrines and ordered to pay a €480 fine and the costs of the case against her.Legal sources said the Austrian woman’s comments would likely have technically formed an offence here, but charges would have been unlikely. An appeal against the conviction to the Austrian Supreme Court failed.