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French cartoonist goes on trial

Legal proceedings began against a French cartoonist facing charges of inciting “racial hatred” with drawings some consider anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic.

Maurice Sinet, the cartoonist for the far-left weekly, Charlie Hebdo, was at the center of a heated, free-speech debate in France this summer, which some in the French media even likened to the Dreyfus affair.

Sinet, better known as Siné, was fired by his editor, Philippe Val, for refusing to apologize for a July cartoon in which he said Jean Sarkozy, 22, the politically ambitious son of the French president, would “go far” for converting to Judaism before marrying his Jewish fiancé, Jessica Sebaoun-Darty.

To date, there is no evidence that the young Sarkozy, a city councilor and center-right UMP party leader in the wealthy suburb of Neuilly, plans to convert to Judaism.

The French human rights group, The International League Against Racismand Anti-Semitism, LICRA, filed suit against Siné for inciting racial hatred for both the July cartoon and a June drawing that mocks Muslim women who wear head scarves. The proceedings opened in Lyon on Tuesday, with both sides presenting their list of witnesses.

Major French political and intellectual figures are divided overwhether Siné’s firing was deserved, with petitions signed and circulated over the Internet by both camps.

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