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One of Australia's best-known cartoonists, Michael Leunig, on Tuesday denied entering two of his works in an Iranian newspaper's contest for cartoons about the Holocaust, saying they were sent maliciously by someone else.
A media report out of Tehran had said Leunig had submitted the first entry in the contest, launched Monday by Hamshahri, one of Iran's top five newspapers, in retaliation for the publication of drawings of the Prophet Muhammad.
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Leunig vehemently denied the claim, saying he had been "set up horribly, maliciously."
He said had been contacted late Monday by a concerned editor at Melbourne's The Age newspaper, which publishes many of Leunig's cartoons.
"I learned last night that some of my cartoons from a few years back have been submitted as an entry in that competition," Leunig told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "This is a fraud and hoax emanating, we believe, from Australia."
An Iranian Web site allegedly ran quotes from Leunig saying he had contributed the cartoons to "express solidarity with the Muslim world," Leunig said.
"These were not my words at all," he said.
The two cartoons that were allegedly submitted on behalf of Leunig were rejected for publication by The Age in 2002.
The first drawing shows a ragged-looking man with a Star of David on his back walking toward the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942 with the words "Work Brings Freedom" over the entrance.
The second drawing in the series shows the same man carrying a rifle walking toward another gate in Israel 2002 with the words "War Brings Peace" over the entrance.
The Age's then-editor Michael Gawenda said in 2002 he had rejected the cartoons because they went beyond the limits he set for discussion of the Middle East.
This is not the first time Leunig - who has been declared a national living treasure by the National Trust of Australia - has created controversy with his cartoons about the Middle East.
Last month, the cartoonist sparked an uproar in Australia's Jewish community with a cartoon published in The Age for criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual head of Hamas who was killed by an Israeli helicopter missile in 2004 while in his wheelchair on a Gaza street.
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