A 16-year-old high school student was arrested on last Thursday for “defending terrorism”.
He had posted a carton on Facebook which represented a person holding the Charlie Hebdo magazine being hit by bullets. He commented on the picture “Charlie Hebdo is shit. It doesn’t stop bullets.”
The 16-year-old had posted an ‘offensive’ picture on his Facebook wall and then commented (ironically): “Charlie Hebdo is shit. It doesn’t stop bullets.”
Assuming that the mock Charlie Hebdo cover is the one shared by the youth on Facebook, this incident sums up the sheer hypocrisy of France’s current national mood.
Anything mocking and denigrating Islam and Muslims is venerated as courageous free speech, while anything mocking those who engage in such denigration – even using precisely the same techniques – can get you locked up.
“A string of at least 69 arrests in France this week on the vague charge of ‘defending terrorism’ (‘l’apologie du terrorisme’) risks violating freedom of expression,” Amnesty International said in an understated press release on Friday.
“All the arrests appear to be on the basis of statements made in the aftermath of the deadly attacks against the magazine Charlie Hebdo, a kosher supermarket and security forces in Paris on 7 and 9 January,” the human rights group added.
“Some of the recently reported cases in France may cross the high threshold of expression that can legitimately be prosecuted,” Amnesty said. “Others, however offensive the statements made, do not.”
As previously reported, the most high profile arrest was of Dieudonné himself – also apparently for an ironic comment.
Many of the arrests are simply absurd, and it is impossible to imagine what purpose they could serve other than to allow the French government to look tough amid an increasingly right-wing and xenophobic political atmosphere, and to satisfy a desire in some sections of the public and media for scapegoats.