United condemnation of attack on French paper


FRENCH POLITICIANS united yesterday to condemn a petrol bomb attack on the offices of the satirical weekly paper Charlie Hebdo, which was targeted after it ran an image of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover.

The attack occurred early yesterday morning, shortly after this week’s edition, “guest-edited” by Muhammad, hit the streets. It showed a cartoon of the prophet saying: “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter.”

Charlie Hebdo’s website was also targeted by hackers and remained down last night.

Interior minister Claude Guéant visited the paper’s headquarters, which had to close due to extensive fire damage, and called on all French people to show solidarity with its staff. “If some people believe they can impose their way of seeing the French republic . . . they are mistaken,” he said. “The French people will not accept this imperialism.

“You like or you don’t like Charlie Hebdo, but it’s a newspaper. Press freedom is sacrosanct for the French,” Mr Guéant added.

Socialist party leader Martine Aubry affirmed her solidarity with the paper’s journalists, while the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, offered to help Charlie Hebdofind new accommodation. Police said the fire started about about 1am. No one was injured, but editor Stéphane Charbonnier said there was “nothing left inside”.

Charlie Hebdohas run into trouble on similar issues. Former editor Philippe Val was acquitted in a French court in 2007 on charges of racial injury after the title reprinted controversial cartoons of Muhammad that had appeared in a Danish newspaper. Many Muslims object to any representation of the prophet.

A statement from Charlie Hebdosaid it was “against all religious fundamentalism but not against practising Muslims”. The weekly had said it would publish a special edition to “celebrate” the victory for an Islamist party in Tunisia’s election and the announcement by Libya’s National Transitional Council that sharia law would be the country’s main source of law. The main representative body of the Muslim faith in France, the French Muslim Council, denounced the attack while also criticising the paper.

The editor of the daily Libération,Nicolas Demorand, said his newspaper was inviting Charlie Hebdo’s staff to work in its offices until they found a new home.