French weekly in court over Mohammed cartoons

7th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 6, 2007 (AFP) - Editors of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo went to court on Wednesday for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that outraged Muslims worldwide.

PARIS, Feb 6, 2007 (AFP) - Editors of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo went to court on Wednesday for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that outraged Muslims worldwide.

Two influential groups -- the Paris Grand Mosque and the Union of Islamic Organisations of France -- are suing Charlie Hebdo for re-printing in February of last year cartoons that appeared in the Danish Jyllands-Posten.

 The weekly is also being sued for publishing a third drawing by French cartoonist Cabu that showed Mohammed sobbing, holding his head in his hands and saying: "It is hard to be loved by fools."

The closely-watched case is seen as a test of the limits of freedom of expression in France.

In a show of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, the lefist daily Liberation arried the cartoons that landed the weekly in court in its Wednesday edition.   "In the land of Voltaire, we have the right to criticise religion," Liberation said in its editorial.

The weekly is to answer a complaint of "publicly offending a group of persons on the basis of their religion" during the hearings that are expected to last two days in a Paris criminal court.

Other than the French drawing, Charlie Hebdo re-printed two drawings that first appeared in the Danish newspaper in September 2005, triggering a wave of mass protests in the Muslim world.

One showed Mohammed with a turban shaped as a bomb, and the second showing him standing on a cloud, turning away suicide bombers from paradise with the caption "Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins."

The two plaintiffs argue that the cartoons draw an offensive link between Islam and terrorism, and are demanding 30,000 euros (38,750 dollars) in damages.

They also want Charlie Hebdo to publish the ruling if it comes down in their favor on the front page of the weekly.

The decision to print the cartoons "was part of a considered plan of provocation aimed against the Islamic community in its most intimate faith, born out of a simplistic Islamophobia as well as purely commercial interests," according to the plea before the court.

Some 15 witnesses have been asked to make depositions on behalf of Charlie Hebdo, including exiled Bangledeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, who became the target of death threats from Muslim fundamentalists in her home country for her writing.

A group of 50 intellectuals including many French Muslims published an open letter Monday urging support for Charlie Hebdo, and describing the trial as a test case for free speech.

"Democrats the world over and especially Muslims hope to see in Europe, and above all in France, a secular haven where their words are not blocked by dictators or fundamentalists. If Charlie Hebdo were to be convicted ... we would all lose this shared space of resistance and liberty," they said.

The editors of Jyllands-Posten were acquitted in October of any wrongdoing in a separate case in a Danish court and very few editors among the dozens of newspapers worldwide that re-printed the cartoons have faced legal action.

A Russian editor of a small newspaper was fined 100,000 roubles (3,000 euros) in April last year and convicted of inciting religious hatred for publishing one of the cartoons.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Mohammed cartoons

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