French court sentences 11 people harassing teenager who posted anti-Islam videos

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French court sentences 11 people harassing teenager who posted anti-Islam videos


A French court has convicted 11 people of harassing a teenage girl online over her anti-Islam videos in a case that has sparked heated debate over freedom of expression and the right to insult religions.

The lawsuits were part of a legal response to trolling and online abuse after the girl, known as Mila, had to change schools and accept police protection due to threats of death.

The Paris court tried 13 people aged 18 to 30 from several regions of France who were accused of harassing Mila, who received more than 100,000 abusive messages – including death threats – according to her lawyer.

Eleven were given suspended sentences – meaning they will not serve a prison sentence unless they are convicted of other offenses – some ordered to pay damages of 1,500 € ( £ 1,280) and legal fees of € 1,000.

“Social networks are like the street,” President Magistrate Michael Humbert said on Wednesday, rendering his judgments. “When you run into someone on the street, you don’t insult them, make fun of them or threaten them. What you don’t do on the streets, you don’t do on social media.

One of those on trial wrote that Mila deserved “to have her throat slit”, while others threatened sexual assault.

Since her rant against Islam in 2020, the hitherto unknown schoolgirl has become a divisive public figure in France – seen by her supporters as a courageous fighter for freedom of expression, and by critics as deliberately. provocative and Islamophobic.

“We won – and we will win again,” Mila, 18, told reporters in court. “I want us to never make the victims feel guilty again. “

The case received wide public attention as it touches on very controversial issues -om cyber-harassment and the right to blaspheme, to attitudes towards religious minorities.

In a first viral video posted to Instagram in January 2020, Mila, then 16 and openly lesbian, responded to the personal abuse of a boy who she said insulted her about his sexuality “in the name of ‘Allah’.

She embarked on a swearing rant, declaring that “Islam is crap … Your religion is crap” along with other explicit comments about Allah that are deemed very offensive to practicing Muslims. She published a second such article in November of the same year.

France’s strict hate speech laws criminalize inciting hatred against a group on the basis of their religion or race, but they do not prevent people from criticizing or insulting religious beliefs.

In the midst of numerous political and media comments, President Emmanuel Macron took his defense by declaring that “the law is clear. We have the right to blaspheme, criticize and caricature religions ”.

The arguments are reminiscent of the debate in France over the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which were printed several times by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the name of freedom of expression.

Charlie Hebdo was attacked by Islamist gunmen in 2014, leaving some of its most famous staff dead in an assault that deeply shocked France.

In October last year, a teacher called Samuel Paty was beheaded on the street after facing an online hate campaign after showing the cartoons to students during a free speech class .

In the Mila case, most of the defendants had no criminal records and came from all walks of life. Some said they just hadn’t thought about it before sending out what they believed to be anonymous slurs.

A 21-year-old language student identified as Lauren G said she was “tired of seeing her (Mila) name all the time in my news feed.”

One of his co-defendants, Axel G, 19, said he reacted angrily because he viewed Mila’s comments on Islam as “racist” and “blasphemous”.

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