Five people detained after French teen's anti-Muslim rant sparks death threats

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French police Tuesday arrested five people in connection with death threats made against a teenager for her expletive-laden online rants against Islam which sparked a new debate over freedom of speech in the country, prosecutors said.

The five were being held on suspicion of cyber-harassment and issuing death threats following an investigation by France's national task force for the fight against online hate speech, they told AFP.

The case of Mila -- who received a slew of death threats for calling Islam "a shitty religion" among other things -- has revived debates in France about freedom of speech.

The furore kicked off in January 2020 with an Instagram post that prompted Mila's family to be put under police protection.

An investigation was launched by prosecutors in the city of Vienne in southeastern France in November after Mila posted another tirade, this time on the TikTok platform.

The probe was then handed to the national task force which was better able to coordinate the search for suspects across several French regions, leading to the arrests of the five who are aged between 18 and 29.

President Emmanuel Macron last February defended the teenager, saying the right to blaspheme was enshrined in the constitution.

"The law is clear. We have the right to blaspheme, to criticise and to caricature religions," he said.

Macron added that children needed to be better protected against "new forms of hate and harassment online".

The debate over freedom of speech gained even more impetus in France following the October murder by an Islamist radical of teacher Samuel Paty who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

(AFP)