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France

French Muslims to sue Charlie Hebdo over Mohammed cartoons

media Charlie Hebdo's publisher, Charb, on Wednesday AFP

A French Muslim group is to sue the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo over the publication of cartoons portraying the Prophet Mohammed. French embassies in 20 countries will be on high alert on Friday, fearing that violent protests over a controversial film may be repeated.

The Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF), the largest group in the umbrella National Muslim Council, on Thursday announced that it will take legal action against the weekly, probably for incitement to racial hatred.

Following government orders, the police have banned demonstrations against the cartoons and the controversial film Innocence of Muslims planned for Saturday in several cities.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Wednesday pointed out that anyone aggrieved by the cartoons could go to court and Muslim leaders, who have appealed for calm, appear to have taken him at his word.

Charlie Hebdo won a case against it in 2008 when it published cartoons of Mohammed previously printed in the Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten. The judgement ruled that their target was that they only targeted part of the "Muslim community" and did not "exceed the limts of freedom of expression".

High-profile Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan called for calm on Thursday.

“The only worthy attitude faced with the provocation of those who want to spread Islamophobia in France or with Charlie Hebdo, which wants to ride this wave, is to ignore these attacks and look beyond them, saying we’re French we are for the future of France,” he told Europe 1 radio.

After defending the paper’s right to free speech on Wednesday, government representatives called for “responsibility” on Thursday.

European Affairs Minister Bernard Cazeneuve declared that “those who benefit from the possibility to express themselves freely [should] constantly have a spirit of ethics and responsibility”.

France’s ambassador to Morocco called the cartoons a “provocation in an alredy very sensitive situation” in an interview with Moroccan radio.

Charlie Hebdo website was back online on Thursday and its spokeperson, Valérie Manteau, conceded that it had not been hacked, as was claimed Wednesday, but claimed that it was intentionally brought down by thousands of messages.

The weekly magazine Le Point claimed that Facebook had censored its account because it reproduced one of the cartoons with a link to an article on the question, although its page was viewable on Thursday afternoon.

Charlie Hebdo’s first run of 75,000 sold out on Wednesday and the paper will print a further 90,000 copies on Friday.

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