Paris: France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and glorifying terrorism, announcing today that 54 people had been arrested for those offenses since terror attacks left 20 dead in Paris last week, including three gunmen.
The order came as Charlie Hebdo's defiant new issue sold out before dawn around Paris, with scuffles at kiosks over dwindling copies of the satirical newspaper that fronted the Prophet Muhammad anew on its cover.
France has been tightening security and searching for accomplices since the terror attacks began, but none of the 54 people have been linked to the attacks. That's raising questions about whether President Francois Hollande's Socialist government is impinging on the very freedom of speech that it so vigorously defends when it comes to Charlie Hebdo.
Among those detained was Dieudonne, a controversial, popular comic with repeated convictions for racism and anti-Semitism.
Like many European countries, France has strong laws against hate speech and especially anti-Semitism in the wake of the Holocaust.
In a message distributed to all French prosecutors and judges, the Justice Ministry laid out the legal basis for rounding up those who defend the Paris terror attacks as well as those responsible for racist or anti-Semitic words or acts. The order did not mention Islam.
A top leader of Yemen's al Qaeda branch claimed responsibility today for the Charlie Hebdo attack, saying in a video the massacre came in "vengeance for the prophet."
The core of the irreverent newspaper's staff perished a week ago when gunmen stormed its offices, killing 12 people and igniting three days of bloodshed around Paris. The attacks ended Friday when security forces killed all three gunmen.
Working out of borrowed offices, Charlie Hebdo employees who survived the massacre put out the issue that appeared today with a print run of 3 million, more than 50 times the paper's usual circulation. Another run was being planned, one columnist said.
French police say as many as six members of a terrorist cell that carried out the Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket may still be at large, including a man seen driving a car registered to the widow of one of the now-dead gunmen. The country has deployed 10,000 troops to protect sensitive sites, including Jewish schools and synagogues, mosques and travel hubs.
The Justice Ministry said the 54 people included four minors and several had already been convicted under special measures for immediate sentencing. Inciting terrorism can bring a 5-year prison term or up to 7 years for inciting terrorism online.