Charlie Hebdo in court next week
Reuters reports that a second attempt to prosecute a French satirical newspaper will go ahead on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. Charlie Hebdo published all twelve of the Danish Motoons, plus some of its own, in February 2006.
The Grand Mosque de Paris and the Union of French Islamic Organisations, will try to get the newspaper prosecuted for race hate. Francis Szpiner is their lawyer, and he’ll have to do some serious szpinning if he’s going to make this case stick:
Free speech is not the issue here. The issue is that, in France, racism is not an opinion, it is a crime. […] Two of those caricatures make a link between Muslims and Muslim terrorists. That has a name and it’s called racism.
Doesn’t bode well for him, does it? Firstly, he makes the link himself between Muslims and Muslim terrorists, then he makes life even more difficult for himself by assuming Islam is a race. Tough one to prove, that.
Interestingly, by focussing on the “racism” charge, Szpiner is forced to concede an important point:
We admit that one can caricaturise the Prophet.
This case is likely to be ruled “irrecevable”, just like the first case, which attempted to prosecute on exactly the same grounds. Makes you wonder why they are throwing their money away.
The publisher ofCharlie Hebdo Philippe Val told L’Express:
It is racist to imagine that they can’t understand a joke.
Which, it must be said, doesn’t really help the defence much.
UPDATE: (6/02/07) Over 50 French intellectuals, including several Muslims, yesterday published a letter in Libération supporting Charlie Hebdo.
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.