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French court backs UK royals on topless photos

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | 11:14 AM    

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NANTERRE, France (AP) — A French court ordered a magazine publisher to hand over all digital copies of topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge within 24 hours and blocked further publication of what it called a "brutal display" of William and Kate's private moments.

Under the ruling Tuesday, the publisher of the French gossip magazine Closer faces a daily fine of euro10,000 (US$13,100) if it fails to hand over the photos featured in Friday's "world exclusive" issue of Prince William's wife Kate.

The photos were taken without authorisation during the royals' vacation at a private residence in southern France.

The court also handed out an injunction to stop Closer France from republishing the offending pictures — including on its website and its tablet app — as well as re-selling them.

A statement Tuesday from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they "welcome the judge's ruling." Maud Sobel, a lawyer for the royal couple, described it as "a wonderful decision."

"We've been vindicated," Sobel said.

Although the decision was seen as a victory for the royals, it only affects the 14 partially clad snapshots of Kate that were in Friday's edition. It's unclear if Closer France possesses more pictures — but if they did they could technically go on and publish them, as the ruling has no power over that.

In any case, if the royal family had hoped to block international publication, it's already too late. An Italian publication "Chi," published dozens even more racy photos of the duchess in a 26-page spread. An Irish newspaper editor, meanwhile, was suspended after he chose to publish some of the topless photos in the "Independent Star."

Tuesday's ruling only affects the French magazine branch of Mondadori, Closer's publisher, which also faces a euro2,000 (US$2,600) fine.

"These snapshots which showed the intimacy of a couple, partially naked on the terrace of a private home, surrounded by a park several hundred metres from a public road, and being able to legitimately assume that they are protected from passers-by, are by nature particularly intrusive," the French ruling decreed.

"(They) were thus subjected to this brutal display the moment the cover appeared."

The photos showed Kate relaxing at a private villa in Provence, in southern France, sometimes without her bikini top and, in one case, her suit bottom partially pulled down to apply sunscreen.

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