Six convicted for harassing French teenager over anti-Islam videos

Show caption Mila arrives for a court hearing in April in the French trial where six new defendants faced charges of online harassment. Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images France Six convicted for harassing French teenager over anti-Islam videos Case has sparked debate about free speech and the right to insult religions Agence France-Presse Tue 24 May 2022 16.44 BST Share on Facebook

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A French court has convicted six people for harassing a teenager online over her anti-Islam videos, in a case that has sparked debate about free speech and the right to insult religions.

The girl, known as Mila, was forced to change schools and accept police protection due to threats to her life after videos in which she insulted Islam went viral in January 2020 and November the same year.

The court handed sentences ranging from a three-month suspended prison term to four months with an electronic bracelet to the two men and four women, aged 19 to 39.

They were ordered to pay damages of 3,000 euros ($3,200) each to Mila.

“Their conviction was necessary,” said Mila’s lawyer Richard Malka, but added that he felt no satisfaction at seeing them sentenced.

“My only satisfaction would be if Mila were able to lead a normal life … and that is not the case,” Malka said.

In the first video, posted on Instagram in January 2020, Mila responded to personal abuse from a boy who she says insulted her about her sexuality “in the name of Allah”.

She launched into an expletive-laden rant against Islam along with other explicit comments about Allah deemed highly offensive to practising Muslims.

She published a second video with similar content in November of the same year, after the jihadist murder of French high-school teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown students controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Mila’s lawyer says she had received more than 100,000 extremely virulent messages in response to the videos, with one person writing that Mila deserved “to have her throat cut”, while others threatened sexual assault.

In July 2021, a French court convicted 11 people for harassment and handed suspended sentences, with some ordered to pay damages of 1,500 euros.

The case has received widespread public attention because it touches on hotly contested issues in France, from cyber harassment to the right to blaspheme, and attitudes to religious minorities.