Historic trial in France following an avalanche of threats against a teenager critical of Islam – .

Historic trial in France following an avalanche of threats against a teenager critical of Islam – .

                Un procès historique pour cyberintimidation à Paris – portant sur des milliers de menaces contre un adolescent qui a fortement critiqué l'islam dans des publications en ligne – ouvre la voie aux efforts visant à punir et à prévenir les abus en ligne.

                                    <p>Treize jeunes d'origines et de religions diverses de toute la France risquent une peine de prison pour des accusations de harcèlement en ligne, de menaces de mort en ligne et de menaces de viol en ligne au cours du procès de deux jours qui s'est terminé mardi.

This is the first such trial since France created a new court in January to prosecute online crimes, including harassment and discrimination.

One of the defendants wants to become a police officer. Another said he just wanted to rack up more followers by making people laugh. Some have denied the wrongdoing, others have apologized. Most said they tweeted or posted without thinking.

The teen at the center of the trial, who was only publicly identified by her first name, Mila, told the court she felt as if she had been “sentenced to death.”

“I don’t see my future,” she said.

Mila, who describes herself as an atheist, was 16 when she started posting videos on Instagram and later on TikTok strongly criticizing Islam and the Quran. Now 18, she said “I don’t like any religion, not just Islam”.

Her lawyer Richard Malka said Mila received some 100,000 threat messages, including death threats, rape threats, misogynistic messages and hate messages about her homosexuality.

Mila had to quit her high school, then another. She is now monitored daily by the police for her safety.

“It was a cataclysm, we have the impression that the sky is falling on our heads […] a confrontation with pure hatred, ”her mother said in court.

Mila’s online enemies don’t fit a single profile. Among the thousands of threats, authorities found 13 suspects on trial this week. All are identified publicly only by their first name, according to French practice.

“Digital lynching”

The lawsuit focused on comments in response to a TikTok video by Mila in November criticizing Islam. A defendant named Manfred threatened to turn her into another Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded outside Paris in October after showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

Manfred told the court he “was pretending to be a stalker to make people laugh.”

“I knew she was controversial because she was critical of Islam. I wanted to have fun and have new subscribers, ”he testified.

Defendant Enzo, 22, apologized in court for tweeting “you deserve to be slaughtered” followed by a misogynist epithet.

Others argued that their posts did not constitute a crime.

“At the time, I didn’t know it was harassment. When I posted the tweet, I didn’t think so, “testified Lauren, a 21-year-old college student who tweeted about Mila,” Have her skull crushed, please.

Alyssa, 20, one of the few Muslim defendants, says she reacted “like everyone else on Twitter” and maintained her criticism of Mila’s posts.

While the defense attorney argued that it is not the same to insult a god or a religion and a human being, Alyssa disagreed.

“For me, it’s of the same nature. Mila used freedom of speech, I thought (twitter an angry response) was also freedom of speech, ”she said.

Freedom of expression is considered a fundamental right and blasphemy is not a crime in France. Many French people consider the right to blasphemy as a pillar of the country’s Enlightenment values, hard won in the fight of the French Revolution against the power of the Catholic Church.

After Mila’s first video in January 2020, a complaint was filed against her for inciting racial hatred. This investigation was abandoned for lack of evidence.

While threats against her have been widely condemned, former President Francois Hollande was among those who argued that while she has the right to criticize religion, “she should not engage in hate speech. against those who practice their religion ”.

Nawfel, 19, said he saw no harm when he tweeted that Mila deserved the death penalty and insulted her sexuality. He passed tests to become a gendarme and hopes not to be convicted, to keep a clean criminal record. The lawsuit gave him a new perspective on online business.

“Without social media, everyone would have a normal life,” he said. “Now there are a lot of people who will think before they write. “

Defendants face up to two years in prison and a € 30,000 fine if found guilty of online harassment. Some are also charged with online death threats, an offense punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to € 45,000.

However, the prosecutor only asked for suspended sentences. A verdict is expected at a later date.

“You have the power to stop this digital lynching,” defense lawyer Malka told the judges. “The fear of the law is the only thing left. “

Mila remains active on social networks.

“I have this need to show that I will not change who I am and what I think,” she said. “I see him as a woman who has been raped in the street and who is asked not to go out, so that it does not happen again. “

(FRANCE 24 with AP)



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