Police begin investigation into attempted murder of free speech advocate

While police say they haven’t pinpointed a motive, Lars Hedegaard says he knows exactly why he was attacked

Copenhagen Police said this evening that they were "looking into everything" regarding the failed assassination attempt on outspoken Islam critic Lars Hedegaard.


"We have many investigation angles," police inspector Jørgen Skov said at a press briefing. "It could be anything. Lars Hedegaard is a well-known person. There could be a political motive, but we don't know yet."


Hedegaard was at home this morning when he answered his door thinking there was a post delivery. The man at his door held a package and wore a red jacket similar to the ones worn by Post Danmark employees. When Hedegaard opened his door, the suspect pointed a gun at Hedegaard and fired. The shot missed and Hedegaard fought off the attacker and when the suspect's gun jammed, he fled the scene. 


"I went on the attack and attempted to punch him in the head," Hedegaard told Politiken newspaper hours after the attack. "He dropped his pistol in the entryway and I tried feverishly to lock the front door. I couldn't because he had stuck his foot in the door. He got the gun again and stood and fumbled with it to try to fire a shot. I tried once again to attack and then he took off."


According to Hedegaard, who is the president of the Free Press Society and has often spoken out against Islam, the motive was clear. 


"This is after all what one can expect when you attempt to express your opinion in this country," Hedegaard said. "It comes as a surprise that I should be shot at, but apparently I should be."


Police are gathering material from Hedegaard's Frederiksberg residence, including DNA and fingerprints. They have described the suspect as a man around 25 years old, 175-180mm tall with dark hair and dark stubble. He is characterised as looking "southern or maybe Arabic" and speaks Danish without an accent. 


Hedegaard's outspoken criticism of Islam was tested in the highest levels of the Danish court system following comments he made in December 2009 that included: "They rape their own children. You hear it all the time. Girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins, or their fathers.” He also said that "when a Muslim man rapes a woman, it is in his right to do so.”


In April 2012, the Supreme Court found Hedegaard not guilty of racism. The decision overruled the one by the Eastern High Court in May 2011, in which Hedegaard was found guilty and fined 5,000 kroner. A decision from two months prior by the Frederiksberg District Court that ruled that while it found Hedegaard's comments insulting, he was not guilty because he thought he was making them in a private conversation. 


Hedegaard’s Free Press Society believes that free speech is “being threatened, primarily by religious and ideological interests and international pressure groups,” and that Islam is the “most dangerous threat at the moment” to free expression.


NOTE: This story was updated on February 6 at 12:40pm to include the Supreme Court's decision on Hedegaard