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France newspaper cleared of defamation for Muhammad cartoons republication

[JURIST] A French court Thursday cleared Charlie-Hebdo magazine and director Philippe Val of defamation in last year's republication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] originally published in a Danish newspaper in September 2005. The court ruled that the defendants did not intend to purposely offend Muslims and so did not slander or defame anyone. Had Val been found responsible in the defamation action, he could have faced six months' imprisonment and over $28,000 in fines because the French legal system allows criminal sanctions in certain civil defamation actions [Taylor Wessig backgrounder, PDF]. The Paris Mosque [mosque website, in French] and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UIOF) [advocacy website, in French], the Muslim organizations that filed the lawsuit, had originally sought to prevent the cartoons' publication [JURIST report], but a French court refused to hear the lawsuit on procedural grounds. The UIOF said it plans to appeal, but the Mosque of Paris will probably abandon the suit.

French Interior Minister and presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile] prepared a statement defending the right of the newspaper to publish the cartoons that the defense read during opening arguments [JURIST report]. State attorneys also called for the case to be dismissed. AP has more.

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