(JTA) – A caricaturist who once worked for the Charlie Hebdo magazine said he has sued for libel the French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who had accused him of anti-Semitism.
Maurice Sinet, better known by his pen name Sine, announced the lawsuit on Monday on his website, urging readers to show their support in a petition and “return honour to all those whom this person has spit on.” The petition had received more than 700 signatures as of Wednesday.
Lévy, one of France’s best-known philosophers, wrote in a January column in the Le Point magazine that Sine is “a former employee of Charlie Hebdo who was kicked out for his anti-Semitism and racism.”
In 2008, Sine published in Charlie Hebdo a text implying that Jean Sarkozy, the son of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, avoided blame for a vehicular accident because he plans to convert to Judaism and marry a rich Jewish woman – all unfounded claims that the caricaturist later said were satirical.
A French court that year ordered a motorist who sued Jean Sarkozy to pay $2,300 for filing a false claim.
Amid a controversy that reverberated for months through France’s literary circles, media and courts, Sine’s employment at Charlie Hebdo – a left-leaning publication known for its lampooning of religion – was terminated after more than two decades.
The magazine, which last year was targeted by Islamists who killed 12 people at its offices, cited threats of legal action against it and the targeting of an individual person for his ties to Judaism as the reason for the dismissal.
LICRA, a French anti-racism group, sued Sine in 2009 for incitement to hate over the text but lost the case on freedom of expression grounds. The Correction Tribunal of Lyon, however, said Sine’s text “conflated Jews with money and therefore can be seen to invoke an anti-Semitic element.”
Lévy told AFP that Sine “can say what he wants and start all the lawsuits in the world. Nothing will erase the shame of his statements in 2008.”