PARIS: French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, the target of a massacre by gunmen in 2015, said on Tuesday it was republishing hugely controversial sketches of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to mark this week’s start of the trial of alleged accomplices to the attack.
The cover of the new issue has a dozen sketches of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), reproducing images that sparked protests when they were first published and a debate about the limits of freedom of speech.
“We will never lie down. We will never give up,” director Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau wrote in an editorial to go with the blasphemous sketches.
Twelve people, including some of France’s most famous cartoonists, were killed on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi went on a gun rampage at the paper’s offices in Paris.
The assailants were killed in the wake of the massacre but 14 alleged accomplices in the attacks, which also targeted a Jewish supermarket, will go on trial in Paris on Wednesday.
FO spokesman says the act cannot be justified as an exercise in press freedom or freedom of expression
The latest Charlie Hebdo cover shows a dozen sketches first published by the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in 2005 — and then reprinted by the French weekly in 2006, unleashing a storm of anger across the Muslim world.
In the centre of the cover is a sketch drawn by cartoonist Jean Cabut, known as Cabu, who lost his life in the massacre.
“All of this, just for that,” the front-page headline says.
The issue will be available from French newsstands just as the trial gets underway on Wednesday morning and can already be read by subscribers online.
In a nuanced response, the president of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM), Mohammed Moussaoui, urged people to “ignore” the sketches, while condemning violence.
“The freedom to caricature is guaranteed for all, the freedom to love or not to love (the caricatures) as well. Nothing can justify violence,” he said.
The suspects, who go on trial on Wednesday, are accused of providing various degrees of logistical support to the killers.
The trial had been delayed several months with most French courtrooms closed over the coronavirus epidemic.
The court in Paris will sit until November 10 and, in a first for a terror trial, proceedings will be filmed for archival purposes given public interest.
Pakistan on Tuesday “condemned in the strongest terms” the decision by the French magazine to re-publish the controversial and offensive sketches, added our staff reporter in Islamabad.
Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri in two different tweets on his official social media account stated that the decision of the French magazine would amount to undermining the global desire for peaceful co-existence and a threat to social and interfaith harmony.
“Pakistan condemns in the strongest terms the decision by the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, to re-publish deeply offensive carricature of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” the FO spokesman tweeted.
“Such a deliberate act to offend the sentiments of billions of Muslims cannot be justified as an exercise in press freedom or freedom of expression,” said Mr Chaudhri in another tweet.