European court upholds conviction of woman accused of insulting Muhammed

2560px European Court of Human Rights European Court of Human Rights. | CherryX/wikmedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) this week upheld a conviction against an Austrian woman who called the Islamic prophet Muhammed a "pedophile."

The ECHR said the conviction, which was also upheld in appeals courts in Austria, did not violate the woman's freedom of expression.

According to the Associated Press, the woman convicted is in her late 40's and has only been identified as E.S. She was charged for comments she made in 2009 at a seminar for Austria's far-right Freedom Party, during which she said that the prophet Muhammed's relationship with his wife Aisha constituted pedophilia.

Aisha is usually understood to be have been six or seven years old when she married the prophet, and nine or ten years old at the time of consummation.

E.S. has said that her comments were intended to spark debate and fell within her rights to freedom of speech. She was charged in 2011 by a Viennese court for disparaging religious doctrines.  Upon conviction, she was fined 480 euros plus court costs. Her case was appealed and upheld twice in Austrian courts.

The ECHR, to which she then appealed the case, is an international court established 1959 which rules on cases alleging violations of the civil and political rights enumerated in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 10 of the Convention states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises."

"The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary."

The ECHR supported the decisions of the Austrian courts to uphold the conviction against E.S., which they said balanced the "right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria," according to The National.

The ruling comes during the same month that Asia Bibi, a Roman Catholic woman who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, is awaiting the final verdict on her case from the country's supreme court.

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