France marks year since Charlie Hebdo attack but plaque’s typo irks; Vatican hits next issue’s cover

AFP-JIJI

French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday honored the victims of the jihadi rampage a year ago in Paris that began with an assault on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, but the widow of a slain police bodyguard said she was taking legal action over alleged security failings.

Hollande began the commemorations by inaugurating a plaque at Charlie Hebdo’s former offices, where cartoonists who were household names in France, nicknamed Cabu, Wolinski and Charb, were killed along with nine others by radicalized brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi.

But Ingrid Brinsolaro, the widow of Charb’s bodyguard, Franck Brinsolaro, who was killed alongside him in the attack on Jan. 7, 2015, said she had filed a lawsuit claiming that her husband was left vulnerable because Charlie Hebdo was inadequately protected.

“To me, Franck was sacrificed, there’s no other word for it. He saw shortcomings, he regretted the lack of security at the offices. He said it was a ‘sieve’ and it was impossible to do his job right in those conditions,” she said on French television Tuesday.

In the two days after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman and four Jews at a kosher supermarket were shot dead by another jihadi, Amedy Coulibaly.

Dubbed “France’s 9/11,” the attacks marked the start of a string of jihadi strikes in France that culminated in the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.

The massacre at Charlie Hebdo unleashed an outpouring of solidarity for freedom of expression, with the rallying cry “Je Suis Charlie” taken up around the world.

After Tuesday’s somber ceremony, Hollande could be seen embracing cartoonist Georges Wolinski’s widow, Maryse.

Red-faced authorities admitted later that they had misspelled Wolinski’s name on the plaque, and rapidly corrected the error.

The president and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo unveiled a separate plaque nearby at the site where one of the gunmen shot police officer Ahmed Merabet as he lay on the pavement.

They went on to unveil a third plaque at Hyper Cacher, the kosher store in an eastern suburb where three shoppers and an employee were killed during a horrifying hostage drama.

Hollande greeted Lassana Bathily, the Muslim worker at the supermarket credited with saving many shoppers’ lives by helping them hide in an underground cold room and later helping police to mount the raid in which they killed Coulibaly.

Bathily, a Malian who was given French nationality in the wake of the attacks, told AFP: “It’s sad. … In our hearts, we are here, offering support to their (the victims’) families.”

On Saturday, a fourth plaque is to be unveiled at the site in the southern suburb of Montrouge where Coulibaly gunned down a policewoman.

Commemorations will culminate in a public event Sunday in the Place de la Republique, the vast square that has become the rallying point for “Je Suis Charlie” solidarity and for the mourning after the Nov. 13 carnage.

An oak “remembrance tree” standing some 10 meters (35 feet) tall will be planted in the square.

Veteran rocker Johnny Hallyday will perform “Un Dimanche de Janvier” (“One January Sunday”), a song recalling the vast march in Paris that attracted 1.6 million people on Jan. 11, 2015.

Dozens of world leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attended the march.

Charlie Hebdo had been a target for jihadi attack since publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons in 2006 and its offices were firebombed in 2011.

Responding to the claims from the bodyguard’s widow, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve defended the decision to reduce security at the magazine’s offices before the attack, saying the authorities had determined that jihadis had shifted to targeting soldiers and police.

Charlie Hebdo, whose biting, often vulgar humor has spared no religion or political persuasion, will publish a special commemorative edition on Wednesday.

True to form, the cover is unabashedly provocative, featuring a Kalashnikov-toting God figure wearing a bloodstained white robe, under the headline: “One year on: The killer is still at large.”

In an editorial, cartoonist Riss, who survived the attack, said his colleagues had been killed “for having dared laugh at religion.

The Vatican’s newspaper on Tuesday criticized French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo for a front cover portraying God as a gun-wielding terrorist to mark the first anniversary of a terror attack on the publication.

A million copies of the special edition are to hit France’s newsstands on Wednesday with a cover featuring a bearded man representing God with a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder, accompanied by the text: “One year on: The murderer is still out there.”

In a commentary, the Vatican daily Osservatore Romano said treatment of this kind toward religion “is not new” — and stressed that religious figures have repeatedly condemned violence in the name of God.

“Behind the deceptive flag of uncompromising secularism, the weekly is forgetting once more what religious leaders of every faith unceasingly repeat to reject violence in the name of religion — using God to justify hatred is a genuine blasphemy, as Pope Francis has said several times.”

The commentary added: “In Charlie Hebdo’s choice, there is the sad paradox of a world which is more and more sensitive about being politically correct, almost to the point of ridicule, yet does not wish to acknowledge or to respect believers’ faith in God, regardless of the religion.”

The special edition will mark a year since brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi burst into Charlie Hebdo’s offices in eastern Paris and killed 12 people, including eight of the magazine’s staff.

The Jan. 7, 2015, attack, claimed by al-Qaida’s branch in the Arabian Peninsula, came after a 2011 firebombing of its offices that forced it to move premises.

Its staff had also been under police protection since it published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006.

A week after the Charlie Hebdo attack, Pope Francis condemned killing in God’s name but warned religion could not be insulted.

“To kill in the name of God is an absurdity,” Francis told reporters on board the papal plane on an Asian tour.

While defending freedom of expression, he also cautioned “each religion has its dignity” and “there are limits.”

“If a good friend speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched, and that’s normal. You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faith, you cannot mock it.”

The widow of one of the cartoonists slain in last year’s attack on Charlie Hebdo meanwhile said she was “furious” to see her husband’s name misspelled on a plaque unveiled Tuesday by Hollande.

Georges Wolinski’s name appeared as “Georges Wolinsky” on the plaque listing the 11 people shot dead in the attack by jihadi gunmen at the newspaper’s then offices in Paris on Jan. 7, 2015.

“This morning, when I saw the ‘Y,’ I can tell you I was furious,” Maryse Wolinski told French television.

She said she pointed it out straight away to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who had unveiled the plaque alongside the president, and was assured that the mistake would be quickly corrected.

Asked what her cartoonist husband would have thought of the typo, Wolinski suggested it was no joking matter.

“He didn’t like it at all when (his name was spelled with a ‘Y’), that I can tell you. And as for me … frankly I’m hard-pressed to see the humor in it because I am too angry.”

The error has been fixed temporarily, but a proper replacement plaque is expected in two days.

Wolinski, who has frequently questioned the security provided for the magazine, has written a book that she describes as a “counter-investigation” into the attack.

The book, to be published on the one-year anniversary Thursday, is titled “Cherie, Je Vais a Charlie” (“Honey, I’m Heading to Charlie”).