The Italian quake-hit city of Amatrice has filed a lawsuit against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo over the publication of cartoons mocking the natural disaster that claimed the lives of almost 300 people.
The complaint, filed on behalf of the town’s local council, has called on the local prosecutor to investigate Charlie Hebdo for “aggravated defamation,” according to Mario Cicchetti, a lawyer for Amatrice city hall.
Amatrice was the worst hit area by the August 24 earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, which almost flattened scores of towns and villages in central Italy. The tremor claimed 295 lives, according to official figures.
Following the deadly quake, the French weekly published one cartoon entitled “Earthquake Italian Style.”
It showed a bloody man labeled “Penne, tomato sauce,” an injured woman described as “Crustes penne,” and a collapsed building dubbed “Lasagne” with battered limbs poking out.
The cartoon sparked widespread anger among Italianswith social media users, describing it as “heartless” and “distasteful.”
In response, Charlie Hebdo, released a second cartoon, showing a person half-buried under rubble with the caption; “Italians ... it’s not Charlie Hebdo who built your homes, it’s the Mafia!"
The local government described the cartoons as “a macabre, senseless and inconceivable insult to victims of a natural event,” Cicchetti said on Monday.
If the magazine is convicted in court, Amatrice could ask for civil damages, according to him.
“Any damages awarded to the town will be entirely turned over to the quake victims,” Cicchetti added.
He explained that although the cartoons were published in France, the legal case could be brought in Italy because they had been widely seen and shared there.
Cicchetti further said it is now up to the court in Rieti, near Amatrice, to decide whether to take up the investigation against the magazine’s director and the cartoonists.
In a similar move last year, Charlie Hebdo caused controversy after it published a blasphemous cartoon of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
The insulting cartoon sparked large protest rallies across the world, with senior Muslim figures condemning the move.