The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has chosen to reprint cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) to mark the beginning of the trial of 14 alleged accomplices for their involvement in the 2015 attack on the publication, the Times reports.
The cover of the new issue, according to the report, shows a caricature of the prophet drawn by attack victim Jean Cabut, known as Cabu. The cartoons were first printed by a Danish newspaper in 2006.
It was similar cartoons of the prophet of Islam published by Charlie Hebdo in 2015 that gunmen cited as their motivation for the attack on the publication, and an assault on a supermarket in Paris a day later.
The attacks, which were perpetrated by brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly (an associate of the brothers), left 17 people dead, including nine Charlie Hebdo employees.
Among the dead were many of the publication's journalists and cartoonists as well as a maintenance worker, two police officers and four people in Paris' Hyper Cacher supermarket. The three gunmen were also killed, during shootouts with the police.
The 14 facing trial, which include 13 men and one woman, were allegedly involved with providing the attackers with weapons and logistics and face charges of terrorism in the trial starting today.
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The decision to republish the cartoons has been seen by many as a display of defiance because the magazine has abstained from printing drawings of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), which are considered blasphemous by Muslims, for the last five years.
"We have often been asked since January 2015 to print other caricatures of Muhammad", an editorial written by Charlie Hebdo Editor Laurent Sourisseau was quoted by the Times as saying.
"We have always refused to do so, not because it is prohibited – the law allows us to do so – but because there was a need for a good reason to do it, a reason which has meaning, and which brings something to the debate," Sourisseau added.
However, others are likely to see Charlie Hebdo's decision to reprint the cartoons, which have been seen as linking the prophet to terrorism, as a provocation.
Religious leaders, including Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Council of Muslim Worship, have called for a calm reaction to the publication, urging readers to ignore the cartoons.
The Paris-based magazine is known for its caricatures of and satirical attacks on religious leaders and has faced attacks over its cartoons before.
According to Al Jazeera, the publication's editorial team has remained under police protection over safety concerns since a firebomb attack on its Paris offices in 2011.
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