French court dismisses ex-minister's cartoon ban plea

A French court on Wednesday dismissed former justice minister Rachida Dati's request to ban the publication of a satirical comic book depicting the quest to unmask her daughter's mystery father.

Dati, 47, a glamorous protege of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, had a child four years ago with a man she refused to name, sparking feverish speculation in a country where the political elite's sexual antics are usually kept quiet.

But last autumn, she took a case against French hotel and casino tycoon Dominique Desseigne to try and make him accept paternity for her daughter, a legal battle that is still ongoing.

A court in Versailles, near Paris, decided Wednesday that the 48-page comic book, titled "Rachida - in the Names of the Fathers", "does not overstep the laws of political satire", according to a ruling seen by AFP.

It also found that the book "does not harm the private life" of the current European Parliament deputy or of her daughter, arguing that Dati has never made a secret of the issue in the past four years.

Other key figures also make an appearance in the book, such as Sarkozy and Desseigne, who has admitted to a fling with Dati but refused to take the paternity test amid claims by his lawyers that she had eight lovers at the time of conception.

Under French law, a court cannot force Desseigne to take the test but can interpret a refusal as confirming he is the father and thus potentially liable to support the child financially.

The appointment in 2007 of Dati -- who is of North African origin -- as justice minister was initially hailed as a symbol of inclusiveness. But she was eventually dropped from the government after her penchant for designer dresses and appearing on the covers of celebrity magazines prompted criticism.

She announced Tuesday that she was pulling out of the competition to be the right-wing candidate for next year's Paris mayoral vote, which is shaping up to be a historic all-female race.

The comic book is due to come out on Thursday.