C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000136
STATE FOR EUR/NB AND NEA/ARPI
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2016
TAGS: PREL MOPS PHUM IR LH
SUBJECT: IRAN PROTESTS LITHUANIA'S REPRINTING OF MUHAMMAD
Classified By: Pol/Econ Officer Christian Yarnell
for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
Â¶1. (SBU) The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs received
a diplomatic note from Iran on February 9 protesting the
publication in the Lithuanian press of cartoons featuring the
Prophet Muhammad. On February 8, Lithuania's infamous daily
"Respublika," which has repeatedly printed hateful cartoons
mocking Jews and homosexuals, reprinted the cartoons
featuring Muhammad that have appeared elsewhere in Europe.
The Iranian note protested that "freedom of the press should
not be used as a pretext to insult other religions' faiths."
MFA Political and EU Department Director Zygimantas
Pavilionis told the Ambassador February 9 that the GOL is
worried, citing reports that there is a bounty on all
newspapers that have printed the cartoons. He expressed fear
that "Respublika's" publisher had placed Lithuania in the
crosshairs of fanatics who may seek to claim the bounty, but
added that the GOL has no specific threat information
indicating that its territory could become a target.
Â¶2. (SBU) Vaclovas Salkauskas, head of the MFA's Africa and
Middle East Division, informed us that the MFA will release a
public statement rather than provide a written reply to the
Iranians. The response stated that the MFA "expresses its
respect for the religious beliefs of every individual, but
disapproves of any action against freedom of the press, and
therefore rejects charges against Lithuania."
Â¶3. (U) The Lithuanian MFA had on February 6 "strongly
condemn(ed) the acts of vandalism against Danish and other
states' diplomatic representation in Syria and Lebanon."
President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Algirdas
Brazauskas have spoken out against the violence, while also
calling for media outlets to show more tolerance towards all
religious groups. Lithuanian law enforcement institutions
are exploring whether "Respublika's" reprinting of the
cartoons may have violated laws prohibiting hate speech.
Â¶4. (C) The MFA and State Security Department convened a
meeting on February 9 to discuss homeland security and the
safety of Lithuanian citizens abroad in the wake of the
recent violence. Approximately 50 Lithuanian troops serve
under Danish command in Iraq, while a 10-man team of Danish
soldiers is operating in the Lithuanian-led PRT in
Afghanistan. High-ranking Lithuanian military officials Rear
Admiral Maciajauskas (Navy Commander) and Brigadier General
Pocius (Land Forces Commander) have expressed concerns to us
that the reprinting of the cartoons in Lithuania may endanger
their troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.