By Associated Press - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Three men charged with plotting to kill Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist who depicted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a dog, were released Wednesday by a court ahead of its verdict announcement.

In a brief statement on the final day of the trial, the Goteborg District Court said the men, ages 24 to 26 and of Somali and Iraqi origin, were no longer in detention. It did not give any reasons for its decision, saying only that it will disclose more information when the verdict is announced Jan. 20.

But typically such a decision means that the court either won’t convict the defendant or that there is little, or no reason, for keeping a person detained for fear that the suspect might run away or destroy evidence.

Prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnstrom has accused the suspects of planning to stab Mr. Vilks at an art event in Goteborg, Sweden’s second-largest city.

The men were carrying knives when they were arrested Sept. 10, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, and an art gallery was evacuated in connection with the arrests. Mr. Vilks had written on his blog that he planned to visit the event, but he did not attend that night.

Police originally treated the case as a terror investigation but later relabeled it a murder plot.

All three suspects have denied the charges.

Mr. Vilks’ 2007 drawing led to several threats against him, including from the al Qaeda terror network, and rekindled a debate over free speech and Islam. Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the Prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

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