Fri, Nov 30, 2007 - Page 6 News List

T-shirt terror trial divides Denmark


"Welcome to Denmark's Tora Bora," says Bobby Schultz, gesturing toward a rickety hot-dog van at the junction between two busy streets in Copenhagen's fashionable Norrebo District.

It is an unlikely terrorist hideout, inhabited by an even less likely terrorist. But in the eyes of Denmark's ministry of justice, Mikkelson, the 56-year-old grandfather cheerfully grilling half a dozen different kinds of sausages by the roadside earlier this week is at the very least a terrorist sympathizer. And if Danish Justice Minister Lene Espersen has her way, his only contact with the culinary world will soon be prison rations.

Alongside Schultz and five other Danes, Mikkelson could be in jail by Christmas for his part in one of Europe's most curious court cases: the so-called T-shirt terror trial.

His crime was sticking a poster up in his van for a brand of T-shirts bearing the logos of two groups classed by the EU as terrorist organizations: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The T-shirts were designed, printed, marketed and sold over the internet for ?15 (US$31), about ?3.50 of which was to go to PFLP and FARC.

They were produced and sold by his co-accused -- a teacher, two students, a copy shop owner, a Web site host and Schultz, a government worker.

All are members of a Danish activist group called Fighters+Lovers and are charged with "sponsoring terrorism," a crime under Danish anti-terror laws that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

The case against them has caused the biggest debate about free speech in Denmark since the 2005 row about cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed, and has been rumbling along in a Copenhagen court since September.

Fighters+Lovers describes itself as "a private enterprise dedicated to the cause of freedom and hard-rocking street gear."

Pictures on the company's Web site show the gear modeled by beautiful people with moody expressions doing rebellious things. One shot shows a young man scaling a fence wearing a bright yellow T-shirt with a pink FARC insignia and a picture of a gun.

One of the company's muses is Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled, whose "stylish classic coolness" the group praises, alongside "the funky outrageous style of [the late] Colombian guerrilla commander Jacobo Arenas," who founded FARC.

All the defendants are adamant they have not committed any crime. They believe the EU "terror list" to be undemocratic because it is drawn up behind closed doors according to unknown criteria, and say that both PFLP and FARC are not terrorists but rather legitimate resistance movements comparable with Denmark's own Nazi resistance during World War II.

They say that neither group is classed as a terrorist organization by the UK, which does not defer to the EU on such matters.

What's more, they say, they weren't financing violence, as the money from sales would have been earmarked for "humanitarian projects" such as radio stations.

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