French court hears opening arguments in Muhammad cartoons lawsuit

[JURIST] Opening arguments were heard on Wednesday in a defamation action brought by the Paris Mosque [Mosque website, in French] and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France [advocacy website, in French] against Charlie-Hebdo magazine and director Philippe Val for last year's republication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] originally published in a Danish newspaper in September 2005. The lawsuit [JURIST report] alleges that by republishing the cartoons, the magazine slandered "a group of people because of their religion." If found guilty, Val and the magazine could face up to six months in prison and fines up to $28,000 under the French legal system which allows criminal sanctions in certain civil defamation actions [Taylor Wessig backgrounder, PDF]. The Muslim organizations had sought to prevent the cartoons' publication [JURIST report], but a French court refused to hear the lawsuit on procedural grounds.

In October, a Danish court dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] filed by Muslim organizations against the editors of the Danish newspaper who first published the caricatures. The editor of the Indonesian online newspaper Rakyat Merdeka will face trial [JURIST report] sometime this year for publishing the cartoons on its website. AP has more.

 

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