French cartoonist acquitted on anti-Semitism charges

PARIS (JTA) — A major figure in French satire, cartoonist Maurice Sinet, was acquitted of spreading anti-Semitism.

A French court in Lyon ruled Tuesday that the cartoonist known as Sinי was innocent of “inciting racial hatred” in an article that said Jean Sarkozy, son of the French president, “would go far in life” for converting to Judaism and marring a Jewish heiress.

Sinי was fired in July when the cartoonist would not apologize for writing what appeared to link Jean Sarkozy’s supposed thirst for power with Judaism. The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism then pressed charges against the 80-year-old cartoonist.

On French television in November, Philippe Val, editor of the far left satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and the individual responsible for firing Sinי, agreed the controversial comments were “ambiguous.” He insisted he would “never publish” content which implied that “Jews like money — that is not allowed,” he said on France 2 television.

Sinי maintained he did not mean Judaism brought wealth and power, but that Jean Sarkozy’s “political opportunism” encompassed converting to a religion in order to marry up.

Jean Sarkozy did marry Jewish heiress Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, but he has not converted to Judaism.

The political left was divided over whether Sinי, who has a reputation for vehemently anti-Israel cartoons, deserved to be fired.

This summer, French and international media compared the debate over Sinי’s firing to the Dreyfus affair, which split the French political left at the turn of the 20th century.

“Justice said that we are allowed to make fun of religion,” Sinי told reporters from the daily le Figaro following the ruling.

Lyon judge Fernand Schirr said the decision upheld “freedom of expression on religious sentiments,” according to le Figaro.

Even if an opinion is “shocking, it does not necessarily incite hatred,” added Schirr.
 

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