Five people were arrested in France on suspicion that they made death threats to a teenager who lambasted Islam on social media last year, numerous sources reported.
The five were suspected of cyber harassment and issuing death threats after an investigation by France’s national task force that monitors online hate speech, according to France 24. Mila, the now 17-year-old French teen who received the threats, was put under police protection with her family early last year after she rebuked Islam as a “religion of hate” on Instagram.
Those detained are between the ages of 18 and 29 and are from different regions of France, according to the BBC.
Mila reignited a debate about free speech in France nearly five years after jihadists massacred cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo magazine due to cartoon portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed, and several months before several other terrorist attacks took place in France.
In her Instagram footage that provoked the backlash, she was doing her makeup and began informing those watching that she was a lesbian and “blacks and Arabs” were not her type after receiving messages complimenting her and asking if she would divulge her age, she told the host of French talk show Le Quotidien. (RELATED: #JeSuisMila Is Trending In France After Lesbian Teen Criticizes Islam As ‘Religion Of Hate’)
— Quotidien (@Qofficiel) February 3, 2020
“The Quran is a religion of hatred, there is only hatred in it,” she said in the stream. “Islam is shit.” She went on to describe in vulgar terms what she would do to “your god,” according to France 24.
After the video, the French education board insisted Mila stay home from school due to the threats she received when the video became viral. #JeSuisMila began trending on Twitter in France, alluding to the hashtag that trended following the Charlie Hebdo tragedy.
French President Emmanuel Macron defended Mila’s freedom of speech and the “right to blaspheme” under French law, according to the BBC.
“The law is clear. We have the right to blaspheme, to criticise and to caricature religions,” he said. He also added that children needed to be better protected against hate and harassment online, according to France 24.
Mila’s lawyer said there was a point where she was receiving 30 hate messages a minute, according to the BBC. She received another wave of threats after she posted another video on TikTok in November. Since January 2020, when her Instagram video provoked threats, she’s received more than 50,000 hate messages, Le Figaro reported, according to the BBC.
L’Etat agit pour protéger #Mila.
Cinq personnes ont été placées en garde à vue ce matin dans l’enquête sur les menaces de mort proférées à son encontre.
Au total, 13 individus ont été interpellés dans cette affaire depuis février 2020.https://t.co/cpBw4gRp57
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) February 9, 2021
Multiple people were prosecuted last year for threatening her, and a 23-year-old was reportedly sentenced to jail in October. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted Tuesday that five people were in custody and that 13 people have been arrested over their involvement with the case since February 2020.
France experienced multiple terror attacks in 2020, one of which involved the beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty, who was reportedly targeted after showing students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published by the Charlie Hebdo satire magazine in 2015 during a lesson on freedom of speech.