Page last updated at 00:55 GMT, Saturday, 29 November 2008

Sarkozy 'voodoo doll' may be sold

Sarkozy 'voodoo doll'
President Sarkozy did not see the funny side of the novelty

A French appeals court has said "voodoo dolls" of President Nicolas Sarkozy may remain on sale - but must carry a label saying they are offensive to him.

A lower court last month dismissed his demand for a ban, ruling the doll was "within the authorised limits of free expression and the right to humour".

The appeals court judge found that "spearing the doll... constitutes an offence to the dignity of Mr Sarkozy".

But, he said, banning its sale would be "disproportionate and inadequate".

The judge ordered the makers of the kit - publishing company K&B - to pay Mr Sarkozy the symbolic sum of one euro in damages, as well as all other costs of the case.

Thierry Herzog, the president's lawyer, said he was satisfied by the ruling, adding: "The important thing is that consistent principles and jurisprudence should be applied."

In the course of the appeals court hearing, Mr Herzog argued that encouraging people to stick needles in Mr Sarkozy's likeness went "far beyond" satire and was verging on "incitement to hatred".

K&B said in a statement it had asked outlets with the dolls in stock to get in touch to arrange for the special labels to be delivered.

'Sense of humour'

The novelty comes with a handbook and pins which users can stick into memorable quotes from the president printed on the doll, such as "Work more to earn more".

Mr Sarkozy took K&B to court after the dolls went on sale on 9 October, but the company refused to stop selling them. His lawyer said the president had "exclusive and absolute rights" over his own image.

K&B also released a similar doll of Segolene Royal, Mr Sarkozy's rival in the presidential elections last year, but she decided not to take legal action, saying: "I have a sense of humour."

This is Mr Sarkozy's sixth legal action since he was elected last year, but it is the first case the courts have rejected.

Voodoo has become associated with zombies and sticking pins into dolls to curse an enemy, but practitioners say this misrepresents their religion.

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