French editor back in court over prophet cartoons
Editor of a French weekly, acquitted last year on charges of offending Muslims for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, appeared before an appeal court
PARIS, January 23, 2008 - The editor of a French weekly, acquitted last
year on charges of offending Muslims for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet
Mohammed in February 2006, appeared before an appeal court on Wednesday.
Philippe Val, who edits the satirical Charlie Hebdo weekly, was sued by two
Muslim organisations who argued that the cartoons, first printed by a Danish
newspaper, drew an offensive link between Islam and terrorism.
A Paris court ruled in March last year that two of the cartoons were
absolutely not offensive to Muslims and that in the case of the third, the
context of its publication made clear there was no intention to offend.
One cartoon reprinted from Denmark's Jyllands-Posten showed the prophet
standing on a cloud, turning away suicide bombers from paradise with the
caption "Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins."
The second, by a French cartoonist, showed a despondent Mohammed holding
his head in his hands, saying: "It is hard to be loved by fools", under the
caption "Mohammed overwhelmed by fundamentalists."
The third, first printed in Jyllands-Posten, showed Mohammed wearing a
turban shaped as a bomb.
The Paris Grand Mosque accepted the ruling, but the Union of Islamic
Organisations of France (UOIF) decided to appeal, later joined by the World
Muslim League (WML).
At the start of Wednesday's hearing however, the appeal court ruled that
the Saudi-based WML was not admissible as a civil plaintiff, leaving the UOIF
as the sole plaintiff.
Hearings were due to continue into the evening, with a verdict expected
Charlie Hebdo's initial trial was seen as an important test for freedom of
expression in France, after the cartoons' publication sparked violent protests
by Muslims worldwide.
The editors of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten were acquitted in
October 2006 of any wrongdoing in a separate case in a Danish court and very
few of the dozens of newspapers worldwide that reprinted the cartoons have
faced legal action.