The Paris court sentenced probation and fines in a landmark online abuse case.
A French court has convicted 11 of 13 people accused of harassing and threatening a teenager with an anti-Islamic online video.
The court sentenced the defendants on Wednesday to probation for four to six months, which means that unless they are convicted of other crimes, they will not serve their sentences in jail and fined each person about 1,770 dollars.
The prosecution came after 18-year-old Mila uploaded the video to the Internet for the first time in 2020, and was forced to transfer to another school and accept police protection because of threats to her life.
The trial in Paris is the first of its kind since France established a new court in January to prosecute cybercrimes, including harassment and discrimination.
“The social network is the street. When you pass someone on the street, you don’t insult them, threaten them, make fun of them,” the trial judge Michel Humbert said. “What you don’t do on the street, don’t do it on social media.”
“I don’t like any religion”
Mila testified in this landmark cyberbullying case last month and said she felt like she was “punished with death.”
She claimed to be an atheist, and started posting videos on Instagram and later TikTok when she was 16 years old, severely criticizing Islam and the Koran.
Since then, she has become a divided public figure in France, regarded by supporters as a symbol of freedom of speech and blasphemy, and by critics as deliberate provocation and Islamophobia.
“I don’t like any religion, not just Islam,” she said during the trial.
Her lawyer Richard Marka said she received 100,000 threatening messages, including death and rape threats, as well as hate messages about her sexual orientation.
One of them told her that she should “cut her throat.”
The 13 defendants from all over France come from different backgrounds and religions, and they are just a small part of all the people who posted online comments against Mila.
Others cannot be tracked.
One of the 13 people was found not guilty because his post-“Blow it up”-was directed at Mira’s Twitter account, not the young woman. The court dismissed the lawsuit against the other defendant on the grounds of procedural error.
Macron defends “right to blasphemy”
The case received such widespread public attention because it involved several contemporary issues in France, from the impact of cyberbullying and online hate speech to the country’s freedom of speech laws and attitudes towards religious minorities.
In the first viral video posted on Instagram in January 2020, Mira responded to the personal abuse of a boy who said that the boy insulted her “in the name of Allah.”
She launched a swearing rant, which contained very offensive comments about practicing Muslims.
France’s strict hate speech law criminalizes inciting hatred against a certain group based on religion or race, but it does not prevent people from criticizing or insulting religious beliefs.
President Emmanuel Macron was one of the defenders of Mira, saying that “the law is clear” and that French citizens “have the right to blaspheme, criticize and satirize religion.”