Mila affair: Eleven sentenced over online abuse

image copyrightAFPimage captionMila (centre) has lived under police protection since the abuse began

Eleven people have been found guilty of sending abusive messages to a French teenager who posted videos criticising Islam online.

"We have won and we'll win again," Mila said after the suspended sentences of between four and six months were announced on Wednesday.

Mila was 16 when her first Instagram clip went viral.

She has since received 100,000 hate messages, her lawyer says, and lives under 24-hour police protection.

The young woman, known as Mila, has now turned 18 and was forced to withdraw from school over the abuse.

Her anti-Islam comments came after she was called a "dirty lesbian" by a Muslim blogger after speaking about her sexuality on Instagram.

Her story has revived debate about freedom of speech and blasphemy in the country, as well as protection for schoolchildren from online bullying.

Ten men and three women aged between 18 and 30 from different areas of France went on trial for online harassment at the beginning of June, with some accused of sending death threats to the teenager.

However, the case against one was dropped due to lack of evidence while another was released due to a procedural problem.

The other 11 defendants were given suspended sentences and so will only serve time in prison if they are convicted for other crimes. Some will also have to pay €1,500 ($1,773; £1,287) in damages to the teenager, as well as €1,000 for her legal fees.

image copyrightMiloorrs/Instagramimage captionMila could not return to her school after criticising Islam on Instagram

The judge said the tweets were part of a campaign of "harassment which had a psychological and physical impact" on Mila.

"In the street, one would refrain from insulting or threatening or insulting someone whose attitudes and words we dislike," he added. "The same goes for social media."

Speaking to the media after the sentences were announced, Mila said: "I don't ever want victims to be blamed again."

In October, a 23-year-old was sentenced to three years over online death threats against the teenager.

After Mila's original remarks, in which she described Islam as a "religion of hate", two opposing hashtags sprang up: #JeSuisMila (I am Mila) and #JeNeSuisPasMila.

President Emmanuel Macron spoke out in support of the teenager, arguing that in France "we have the right to blaspheme".

A French schoolteacher was murdered in October last year after showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed to a class discussing freedom of expression.

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