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Cartoonist Who Survived Attack Gets Free-Speech Award

Cartoonist Lars Vilks holds the Danish Free Press Society's Sappho Prize, which he received for his efforts on behalf of freedom of speech at an meeting in the Danish Parliament at Christiansborg Castle, Copenhagen, March 14, 2015.

A month after surviving an attack by a gunman that killed one person, Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks returned to Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, to receive a freedom-of-speech award.

Vilks, who has lived with death threats since he depicted the head of the Prophet Muhammad on a dog in a 2007 cartoon, was presented with the award by the Danish Free Press Society.

On February 14, Omar El-Hussein killed a bystander and wounded three police officers at a seminar where Vilks was to be the main speaker. Hours later, he fatally shot a Jewish guard and wounded two officers outside Copenhagen's main synagogue. He was eventually killed in a shootout with police.

Threats and attacks against cartoonists whose work has angered some Muslims began with the publication of 12 editorial cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. The paper said the cartoons, most of which depicted the Prophet Muhammad, were part of an attempt to contribute to the debate about criticism of Islam and self-censorship.

The cartoons eventually led to protests around the world, including violent demonstrations and riots in some Muslim countries.

Between October 2005 and early January 2006, examples of the cartoons were reprinted in major European newspapers from the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, Romania and Switzerland. After major international protests, they were republished around the globe, but primarily in continental Europe.

Many violent plots related to the cartoons have been discovered in the years since. Earlier this year, attacks by Muslim extremists on the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a kosher grocery left 20 people dead, including three attackers. The French magazine was known for mocking religion and had published several cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.