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French editor back in court over prophet cartoons

Published on January 24, 2008

   PARIS, January 23, 2008  - The editor of a French weekly, acquitted lastyear on charges of offending Muslims for reprinting cartoons of the ProphetMohammed in February 2006, appeared before an appeal court on Wednesday.   Philippe Val, who edits the satirical Charlie Hebdo weekly, was sued by twoMuslim organisations who argued that the cartoons, first printed by a Danishnewspaper, drew an offensive link between Islam and terrorism.   A Paris court ruled in March last year that two of the cartoons wereabsolutely not offensive to Muslims and that in the case of the third, thecontext of its publication made clear there was no intention to offend.   One cartoon reprinted from Denmark's Jyllands-Posten showed the prophetstanding on a cloud, turning away suicide bombers from paradise with thecaption "Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins."   The second, by a French cartoonist, showed a despondent Mohammed holdinghis head in his hands, saying: "It is hard to be loved by fools", under thecaption "Mohammed overwhelmed by fundamentalists."   The third, first printed in Jyllands-Posten, showed Mohammed wearing aturban shaped as a bomb.   The Paris Grand Mosque accepted the ruling, but the Union of IslamicOrganisations of France (UOIF) decided to appeal, later joined by the WorldMuslim League (WML).   At the start of Wednesday's hearing however, the appeal court ruled thatthe Saudi-based WML was not admissible as a civil plaintiff, leaving the UOIFas the sole plaintiff.   Hearings were due to continue into the evening, with a verdict expectednext month.   Charlie Hebdo's initial trial was seen as an important test for freedom ofexpression in France, after the cartoons' publication sparked violent protestsby Muslims worldwide.   The editors of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten were acquitted inOctober 2006 of any wrongdoing in a separate case in a Danish court and veryfew of the dozens of newspapers worldwide that reprinted the cartoons havefaced legal action.

AFP