Quake-hit Italian town sues Charlie Hebdo for ‘grisly’ cartoons

A general view after earthquake that levelled the town in Amatrice, central Italy, September 1, 2016. © Stefano Rellandini
The Italian town of Amatrice, devastated by an earthquake on September 24, has filed a lawsuit against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for “senseless” cartoons depicting quake victims as types of pasta.

“This is a grisly, senseless and unconscionable insult to the victims of the natural disaster,” Mario Cicchetti, a lawyer representing the town hall of Amatrice, is as saying by Italian news outlet ANSA.

Despite being an “inviolable right” in both France and Italy, not everything can be satire, the lawyer added. 

Cicchetti has filed the legal complaint on behalf of the town’s authorities at the magistrate in Rieti, near Amatrice. The lawsuit cites “aggravated defamation” by Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its provocative cartoons, Reuters reports.

According to the outlet, quoting Cicchetti, the legal case can be handled in Italy because the pictures “had been widely seen and shared there.” The magistrate in Rieti is yet to decide how to proceed with the case. So far there has been no comment from Charlie Hebdo.

A powerful earthquake measuring 6.2 battered central Italy on August 24, killing at least 294 people. The worst destruction was seen in the towns of Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto.

Following the tragedy, Charlie Hebdo  several cartoons in early September, making fun of the victims of the disaster. The cartoon titled ‘Earthquake Italian Style’ compared the quake victims with traditional dishes of the country.

The caricature showed a man covered in blood standing with a sign over his head reading “penne in tomato sauce.” 

Another image showed people squashed in the rubble with feet sticking out between the floors of a collapsed building with a sign reading “Lasagna.” 

The cartoons triggered a fierce backlash from authorities and people on social media. One of the strongest responses came from Italian Minister of the Interior Angelino Alfano.

"Using their own satire, I'd offer a suggestion as to where they can stick their pencil," he said. 

People on Twitter also weighed in, calling the cartoons “disgusting” and a “lazy hate.” Following the incident the French embassy in Italy said the satire by Charlie Hebdo did not represent the official view of France.

Charlie Hebdo is notorious for its provocative drawings, with some of the most controversial mocking the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.

In January 2015, the outlet was the target of a terrorist attack by two Al-Qaeda linked assailants who killed 12 people. However, it continued to issue provocative cartoons, including on the massacre in Paris in November 2015. Back then the magazine pictured a bullet-riddled man saying, "They have weapons. F*** them. We have champagne!"