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France enjoys Sarkozy's voodoo doll setback


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France enjoys Sarkozy's voodoo doll setback

By Katrin Bennhold

Published: October 30, 2008

PARIS: The French are literally poking fun at President Nicolas Sarkozy, but he is not amused.

After appealing a court decision to allow a voodoo doll made in his image to remain on sale, Sarkozy drew a flurry of ridicule from his critics Thursday. It is his sixth lawsuit this year.

The Nicolas Sarkozy doll, which went on sale Oct. 9 and became a best-selling cult item as soon as the president tried to have it banned, comes with a set of 12 pins and a manual explaining how to put a curse on him.

Its light-blue body features some of his best-known quotes and most notorious gaffes, ready to be poked: "Work more to earn more" reads one, a famous campaign slogan. "Get lost, you poor jerk," reads another, a swipe that Sarkozy took at a bystander who refused to shake his hand at a farm fair.

"You detest Nicolas Sarkozy because he is too far to the right? You dislike him because he is not far enough on the right?" the cover asks the prospective buyer, before claiming that, for only €12.95, or about $17, "you can ward off the evil eye and stop Nicolas Sarkozy from doing more damage."

Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, has demanded a ban, arguing that the president owns the right to his image and had never authorized the doll.

But a Paris court threw out the request, ruling that the doll was protected by what it called the "right to humor."

"Caricature and satire, even deliberately provocative and crude, falls under freedom of expression," three judges wrote in their ruling published Wednesday.

At a time when gloom and doom about the economy have been dominating front pages, the media seized on the news as a welcome distraction.

"Why this fury?" said an editorial in the Latest Alsace News, a local daily in eastern France. "Is the president of the republic superstitious?"

The newspaper Le Monde featured a caricature of a judge with needles sticking out of him and a speech bubble exclaiming: "The president is not happy."

But behind the mocking tone of many editorials was a more serious concern about a president who has been more litigious than any of his predecessors.

In February, for example, Sarkozy sued a journalist for publishing the content of a text message he said he never sent to his former wife, just days before his wedding to his third wife, Carla Bruni.

In May he went after two T-shirt producers who had made fun of his last name.

If the latest case has made more waves than others, it is also because, as interior minister in 2006, Sarkozy was one of the staunchest defenders of the right of newspapers to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that offended many Muslims.

Full story, source: The International Herald Tribune

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