Vilks panel debate cancelled due to protests

After protests, the Gothenburg conference center Folkets Hus has cancelled a panel discussion that would have included the controversial artist Lars Vilks on Thursday.

In 2007, a cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad as a dog, drawn by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, was published. Since then, he has been the target of threats and attacks. Vilks, who was in Copenhagen last month for a debate on free speech, is believed to have been the target of the terrorist attack there that killed one person.

The artist was due to take part in a panel organized by the youth wing of the Pirate Party, Young Pirate, on Thursday at the Folkets Hus meeting center in Gothenburg tomorrow. This would make his first official appearance in public since the Copenhagen attack.

But the teacher's union, which is scheduled to have its annual meeting then, in the same locale, protested the panel discussion, because many of their members were cancelling their plans to attend.

Elisabeth Mossberg, the chair of the teacher's union, told Swedish Radio that members had reacted with uneasiness to the idea of having their meeting when Vilks was scheduled to be there, too.

The teacher's union was willing to change the date of their meeting for their members' safety. Mossberg also emphasized that free expression is important, but instead, it is the panel discussion involving Vilks that will be cancelled.

Mats Gröndahl, chair of the conference center, said that while the center was satisfied that there would be sufficient security at the panel discussion, they had made it clear from the beginning that it could only take place if it wouldn't disturb the other tenants and conference guests. 

At first, the panel discussion was supposed to be postponed until Friday, but news agency TT now reports that it has been cancelled, because tenants at Folkets Hus had already sold tickets for an event happening Friday afternoon.