The editor of a French weekly, acquitted last year on charges of offending Muslims for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in February 2006, appeared before an appeal court on Wednesday.
Philippe Val, who edits the satirical Charlie Hebdo weekly, was sued by two Muslim organisations who argued that the cartoons, first printed by a Danish newspaper, drew an offensive link between Islam and terrorism.
A Paris court ruled in March last year that two of the cartoons were absolutely not offensive to Muslims and that in the case of the third, the context of its publication made clear there was no intention to offend.
One cartoon reprinted from Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten showed the prophet standing on a cloud, turning away suicide bombers from paradise with the caption “Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins.”
The second, by a French cartoonist, showed a despondent Mohammed holding his head in his hands, saying: “It is hard to be loved by fools”, under the caption “Mohammed overwhelmed by fundamentalists.”
The third, first printed in Jyllands-Posten, showed Mohammed wearing a turban shaped as a bomb.
The Paris Grand Mosque accepted the ruling, but the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF) decided to appeal, later joined by the World Muslim League (WML).
At the start of Wednesday’s hearing however, the appeal court ruled that the Saudi-based WML was not admissible as a civil plaintiff, leaving the UOIF as the sole plaintiff.
Hearings were due to continue into the evening, with a verdict expected next month.
Charlie Hebdo’s initial trial was seen as an important test for freedom of expression in France, after the cartoons’ publication sparked violent protests by Muslims worldwide.
The editors of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten were acquitted in October 2006 of any wrongdoing in a separate case in a Danish court and very few of the dozens of newspapers worldwide that reprinted the cartoons have faced legal action.