French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has republished controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed as people allegedly involved in the deadly attack on its newsroom go on trial in Paris.
The caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed first induced the deadly assault, with Muslims classing any depiction of the Prophet as being blasphemous.
The Paris-based weekly reprinted the cartoon with the title, “Tout ça pour ça” (All that for this) as the trial got underway.
A total of 17 people were killed in the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris which took place in the French capital over three days in January 2015.
The perpetrators — brothers Said and Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly — were killed by police. Fourteen people are on trial in Paris’ Criminal Court over their alleged involvement in the attacks.
Magazine director Laurent Sourisseau, who was injured in the attack, defended the publication’s decision to rerun the controversial images in an editorial on Wednesday.
“We will never give in. And we will never give up.”
“The only reasons” not to reprint the cartoons “stem from political or journalistic cowardice,” he wrote.
“That’s the essence of the Charlie Hebdo spirit: It’s refusing to give up our freedoms, our laughter, and even our blasphemy.”
Richard Malka – Lawyer Charlie Hebdo
Courting controversy or circumventing censorship
Charlie Hebdo has long come under fire for its derisive, provocative content which frequently takes aim at politicians and organised religion.
It has twice been the victim of terror attacks — in 2011 and 2015 — each time by Islamic extremists seemingly offended by its printing of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.
While the magazine’s supporters argue that its provocative, no-holds-barred output is a centrepiece of free expression that must be defended, its detractors say it has unnecessarily set out to insult vulnerable communities and sometimes veered into hate speech.
Reprints trigger unrest
After reprinting the 2015 caricature of the Muslim prophet this week, along with a tribute to the murdered employees, waves of unrest broke out in Pakistan and Turkey, whose top diplomats both denounced the magazine for featuring images deemed blasphemous by the Muslim world.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hami Aksoy accused the magazine of “’otherising’ millions of Muslims and harming societal peace.”
“At every opportunity, those who define themselves as democrat and liberal are serving the new generation of fascists and racists in France and Europe by using such racist and discriminatory actions that increase anti-Islamism and xenophobia.”
Aksoy also criticised French President Emmanuel Macron for defending the publication of the controversial cartoons.
“In France, there’s also a freedom to blaspheme that is linked to the freedom of conscience,” Macron said at a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon.
“So, from where I stand, I’m there to protect all those freedoms. So I don’t have to comment on a journalist’s choice. I just have to say that, in France, one can criticize people who are governing and one can blaspheme.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described the republishing of cartoons as a “provocative move” that amounts to an “insult to the Islamic values and beliefs of over one billion Muslims in the world.”
Trial live on giant screens
Some 150 experts and witnesses will be heard over the next two and a half months in a trial that will revisit one of the most painful chapters in France’s modern history.
French media have described the trial as “historic,” but it also risks reopening a wound in France’s national psyche.
Special viewing galleries have been opened for the public to be able to watch the proceedings, which will be screened live on giant screens.
Given its historical importance, the trial at the Paris court will also be filmed for official archives, a first for a terror trial.
It is scheduled to run until November 10.