Italy: Amatrice sues Charlie Hebdo over quake cartoons

Legal action pursued over "inconceivably" insulting images that depict Amatrice disaster victims as pasta dishes.

    Amatrice's lawyer described Charlie Hebdo's cartoons as a 'macabre, tactless and inconceivable insult' [EPA]
    Amatrice's lawyer described Charlie Hebdo's cartoons as a 'macabre, tactless and inconceivable insult' [EPA]

    An Italian town devastated by an earthquake last month is pursuing legal action against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for defamation over a series of cartoons about the disaster that killed almost 300 people.

    The magazine caused an outcry in Italy by publishing a cartoon that portrayed victims of the quake in Amatrice, a town known for its homegrown Amatriciana pasta sauce, as various pasta dishes, as well as a separate drawing blaming the mafia for the alleged poor construction of the buildings and the high death toll.

    After the legal move was announced the town council's lawyer, Mario Cicchetti, told reporters: "It amounts to a macabre, tactless and inconceivable insult to the victims of a natural catastrophe."

    Amatrice was largely flattened by the quake on August 24.

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    One cartoon published in early September, entitled Earthquake Italian Style, captioned drawings of a bloodied and bandaged man with the line "Penne in tomato sauce", a scratched and swollen woman with "Penne au gratin", and a collapsed building with blood and feet emerging from it "Lasagne".

    After Italians responded angrily, the magazine, known for its provocative cartoons, published on Friday a second one, showing a person half-buried under rubble saying: "Italians ... it's not Charlie Hebdo who built your homes, it's the mafia!"

    There was no immediate response from the French publication to the suit.

    Amatrice's local government has asked a local prosecutor to investigate Charlie Hebdo for "aggravated defamation", a crime for which the town would seek civil damages.

    OPINION: Let's not sacralize Charlie Hebdo

    Even though the cartoons were published in France, Cicchetti said the legal case could be brought in Italy because they had been widely seen and shared there.

    The construction sector in Italy has long been plagued by inattention to regulations, and both regular building work and post-disaster reconstruction has at times been infiltrated by organised crime.

    It is now up to the magistrates in Rieti, near Amatrice, to decide whether to take up the investigation against the cartoonists and the magazine's director, Cicchetti said.

    Twelve people were shot dead at Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris in 2015 by ISIL-linked assailants who accused the magazine of blasphemy for printing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

    SOURCE: News Agencies


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