updated 3/22/2007 10:43:17 AM ET 2007-03-22T14:43:17

A French court cleared a satirical weekly newspaper Thursday in a case brought by Muslims who were angered by its publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The newspaper Charlie-Hebdo and its director, Philippe Val, were accused of “publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion.” Val had risked a six-month prison sentence and a fine of up to $29,250.

The trial last month drew nationwide attention in a country with Europe’s largest Muslim community and a strong commitment to freedom of expression and secularism.

Journalists and politicians have testified and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter of support for the weekly.

The state prosecutor — whose role in court is to defend French law — argued in favor of the magazine, which on Feb. 8, 2006, printed three caricatures — two of them reprints of those carried by a Danish newspaper in 2005 that stoked anger across the Islamic world. One caricature was an original.

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