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Culture

Former Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Siné dies after controversial career

media Maurice Sinet, known as Siné, died on 5 May 2016 AFP/Jacques Demarthon

French cartoonist Siné has died at the age of 87 after a long and controversial career. One of the earliest contributors to Charlie Hebdo, he was fired from the satirical magzine after being accused of anti-Semitism. He was known for his caricatures of capitalists, colonialists, soldiers, priests ... and cats.

Born Maurice Sinet in 1928 in the working-class north of Paris, Siné first earned a living as a cabaret singer before publishing his first cartoon in France-Dimanche newspaper in 1952.

One of his main influences was American artist Saul Steinberg.

Conscripted into military service, he spent much of his time in the army in prison.

He was later employed by L'Express magazine during the Algerian war of independence, where a column he wrote gave rise to indignant letters from readers and he fell out with then-editor Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber when he published a front-page apology.

A front page of Siné Mensuel, calling for a general strike DR

Although he continued to draw cartoons for L'Express for a while, Siné later set up the first of several papers bearing his own name, Siné Massacre, where he gave free rein to his anticolonialist, anti-Zionist, anticapitalist, anti-clerical and anarchist views.

At the time he worked with lawyer Jacques Vergès in particular in support of the Algerian independence struggle, later breaking with him over Vergès's defence of former Nazi "Butcher of Lyon", Klaus Barbie.

Charlie Hebdo collaboration and firing

Siné was also associated with Charlie Hebdo from its origins in the 1970s, starting a column in 1981.

In 1982, after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and a Palestinian group's attack on a Jewish area of Paris, he was taken to court for a tirade on a radio station in which he declared "I'm an anti-Semite when Israel bombs" but issued an apology that led to the prime movers of the case withdrawing the complaint, although he was found guilty of incitement of racial hatred because two other groups maintained it.

The charge of anti-Semitism came up again in 2008 when Siné commented in Charlie Hebdo that then-president Nicolas Sarkozy's son Jean would "go far", pointing to his burgeoning political career and a report that he was considering converting to Judaism before marrying an heiress of a wealthy Jewish family.

Then-editor Philippe Val fired him, leading to a major public controversy.

A court found him not guilty of inciting racial hatred and another court awarded him 90,000 euros for wrongful dismissal.

Jazz and cats

Siné went on to publish Siné Hebdo (Siné Weekly), which failed to become financially viable and later became Siné Mensuel (Siné Monthly).

Siné was a jazz fan, designing several books and album covers devoted to it, and very fond of cats, publishing two books of drawings of them.

He drew the last cover for Siné Mensuel while awaiting the operation on his lungs during which he died on 5 May 2016.

To read our coverage of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks, click here

  • 31 December 1928: born in Paris;
  • 1942: Studies drawing and layout at the Ecole Estienne;
  • 1952: First cartoon published, in France-Dimanche;
  • 1955:Wins Grand Prix de l’Humour for a cartoon album Complainte sans Paroles;
  • 1959: Starts drawing cats;
  • 1962: Works for l’Express, leaving to start Siné Massacre;
  • 1968: Founds l’Enragé;
  • 1974: Works for Charlie Hebdo;
  • 1981: Moves to l’Evènement du Jeudi;
  • 1992: Returns to Charlie Hebdo;
  • 2004: Supports electoral list Euro-Palestine, also backed by comedian Dieudonné;
  • 2008: Philippe Val fires him from Charlie Hebdo, accusing him of anti-Semitism, he starts Siné Hebdo;
  • 2009: Found not guilty of incitement to racial hatred;
  • 2010: Charlie Hebdo ordered to pay him 40,000 euros for wrongful dismissal, appeals and the compensation is raised to 90,000 euros;
  • 2011: Siné Hebdo becomes Siné Mensuel;
  • 5 May 2016: Dies during an unsuccessful operation on his lungs.

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