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Sarkozy sues over satirical T-shirt

Lawyers worry about freedom of humor

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has launched legal proceedings against the makers of a satirical T-shirt who mocked his reputation as a law-and-order hardliner, the company's owner Thierry Boeuf said on Saturday.

The T-shirt has Sarkozy's name written in large letters across the chest with a gun target replacing the letter "o" in his name.

Above his name is the French national motto "liberty, equality, fraternity" splattered with blood.

The T-shirt firm is already being sued by some leading firms, including Heineken and Lacoste, over of its hard-hitting slogans and on Friday found out that Sarkozy's lawyers had joined the legal attack.

"It is astonishing. I can't understand it," Boeuf told France Info radio.

"There are so many other things going on in this country and I would have thought there are better things to do than worry about these T-shirts," he added.

Prosecutors investigating the various complaints are considering pressing charges ranging from counterfeiting, using brand names without permission and incitement to terrorism.

Boeuf's lawyer said the T-shirts were humorous and accused Sarkozy of trying to limit freedom of speech.

"I am worried about satirical freedoms and freedom of humor," lawyer Roland Marmillot told France Info.

The president's office declined to comment.

Sarkozy signaled earlier this year that he was willing to go to the courts to defend his name after he launched criminal proceedings against a journalist who alleged that the president had sent a text message to his former wife asking her to return to him shortly before his marriage to Carla Bruni.

The president denied the allegation and later dropped the case after the journalist concerned wrote to Bruni-Sarkozy and apologized.