A court in France has found eleven people guilty of sending abusive messages to a French teenager who posted videos criticizing Islam online.
After Mila (aged 16 then) was called a “dirty lesbian” by a Muslim blogger for speaking about her sexuality on Instagram she posted a clip on Instagram criticizing Islam.
She described Islam as a “religion of hate” which made her receive so many death threats.
Two opposing hashtags trended on social media: #JeSuisMila (I am Mila) and #JeNeSuisPasMila (I am not Mila) and France President Emmanuel Macron spoke out in support of the teenager, arguing that in France “we have the right to blaspheme”.
Mila, now aged 18 was forced to withdraw from school over the abuse and now lives under 24-hour police protection.
On Wednesday, July 7, 11 defendants were given suspended sentences for abusing her online and so will only serve time in prison if they are convicted for other crimes. Some will also have to pay €1,500 ($1,773; £1,287) in damages to the teenager, as well as €1,000 for her legal fees.
The judge said the tweets were part of a campaign of “harassment which had a psychological and physical impact” on Mila.
“In the street, one would refrain from insulting or threatening or insulting someone whose attitudes and words we dislike,” he added.
“The same goes for social media.”
Speaking to the media after the sentences were announced, Mila said: “I don’t ever want victims to be blamed again.”
“We have won and we’ll win again,” Mila said .
Her story has revived debate about freedom of speech and blasphemy in the country, as well as protection for schoolchildren from online bullying.
In October last year, a French schoolteacher was murdered after showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed to a class discussing freedom of expression.