The weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is being sued by a Muslim school in southern France after an article linked it to the Muslim Brotherhood. The magazine's lawyers invoked "its editorial line", and denied libel.
Published in July 2022, the piece linked the private school in southern city of Valence, run by the 'Valeurs et Réussite' association, and the Islamist branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The article had created controversy and led, according to the association, to the cancellation in October 2022 of the sale of an 8,400m2 plot of land, voted by the city in June, after an intervention by the prefecture of police.
Appearing in court in Valence on Tuesday, Charlie Hebdo's lawyers said the accusations are an attack against their work.
They want to "muzzle" the magazine, and "limit freedom of expression,” argued Richard Malka, who defends the satirical weekly.
“The essence of the press and journalism is to create debate,” he added, stressing that the incriminated article represented “the editorial line of Charlie Hebdo”.
Huge loss and discrimination
The private primary school accommodates around forty students, and is currently housed within the grounds of the great mosque of Valence.
It intended to use this land to expand its premises and sign a contract with the State, as most Catholic schools do.
This link "to the Muslim Brotherhood is an attack on the honour" of the school, said Antoine Pastor, one of the school's lawyers, criticising "the false nature of the article" and the "gross errors" committed by his author.
The president of 'Valeurs et Réussite', Mourad Jabri, assured that his association had “suffered an injustice” with “dramatic consequences on a project of public interest”.
“There is no link between the association and the Muslim Brotherhood,” he assured, claiming to be “bruised” and struck by “immense sadness”.
The Muslim Brotherhood, a religiopolitical organisation founded in Egypt in 1928 advocates the application of Islamic law in all aspects of society.
The Valence mosque also reported receiving Islamophobic letters and death threats, following the death of a teenager, in the nearby town of Crépol last month.
Dozens of documents, "in the journalist's possession” allowed the publication of the article, according to another Charlie Hebdo lawyer, Marine Viegas.
Malka also argued that the complaint was inadmissible due to the association's statutes which, according to him, "do not give the powers to its president" to attack Charlie Hebdo alone for defamation.
The court will render its decision on 21 December.