Newspaper in court over Mohammed cartoons

5th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 5, 2007 (AFP) - Editors of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo will be in a Paris court Wednesday to answer a civil case brought by two Islamic organisations over its publication last February of controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

PARIS, Feb 5, 2007 (AFP) - Editors of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo will be in a Paris court Wednesday to answer a civil case brought by two Islamic organisations over its publication last February of controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

The Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF) and the Grand Mosque of Paris (GMP) sued the weekly after it printed the 12 caricatures that appeared originally in a Danish newspaper in September 2005, provoking riots across the Islamic world.

The plaintiffs accuse Charlie Hebdo of the crime of "issuing insults stigmatising a group of people on the basis of religion", and are demanding 30,000 euros (38,750 dollars) in damages. The trial is expected to last two days.

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.

Three drawings are cited. One showed Mohammed in a turban shaped as a bomb, and the second showed him turning away suicide bombers from paradise on the grounds that "there are no more virgins."

The third cartoon did not appear in the Danish Jyllands-Posten but was drawn by the French artist Cabu and showed the Prophet with his head in his hands saying: "It is hard to be loved by fools."

In the same edition, Charlie Hebdo also printed cartoons poking fun at other religions.

Other French newspapers including Le Monde, Liberation and France-Soir printed some or all of the controversial cartoons, prompting criticism from President Jacques Chirac who said that "freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of responsibility."

A group of 50 intellectuals including many French Muslims published an open letter in Liberation Monday urging support for Charlie Hebdo, and describing Wednesday's 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.

In October a Danish court cleared the editors of Jyllands-Posten after it was sued by Muslim groups. The judge at Aarhus district court ruled that the cartoons were neither offensive nor intended to denigrate Muslims.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Mohammed Cartoons, Charlie Hebdo

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