Charlie Hebdo cofounder blames slain editor for provoking attack

‘What made him feel the need to drag the team into overdoing it?’ Henri Roussel writes

Less than a week after the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo left 12 people dead, one of the satirical French newspaper's founding members is blaming the publication’s slain editor for provoking the attacks, the Telegraph reports.

Henri Roussel, an 80-year-old who contributed to its first issue, in 1970 (when it was known as Hara-Kiri Hebdo), penned a column this week criticizing editor Stéphane Charbonnier, one of five staff members killed in last week’s shootings, for his stubbornness after publishing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, which was followed by the 2011 firebombing of the newspaper’s offices.

“What made him feel the need to drag the team into overdoing it?” Roussel writes in Nouvel Observateur, according to a translation by the Telegraph. “He shouldn’t have done it, but Charb did it again a year later, in September 2012.”

“I believe that we [were] fools who took an unnecessary risk,” Roussel, who writes under the pen name Delfeil de Ton, continued. “That’s it. We think we are invulnerable. For years, decades even, it was a provocation, and then one day the provocation turns against us.

“I know it’s not done,” Roussel, who called Charbonnier a “blockhead,” added. “[But] I really hold it against you.”

The column drew a furious response from Richard Malka, Charlie Hebdo’s longtime lawyer.

“Charb has not yet even been buried, and [Nouvel Observateur] finds nothing better to do than publish a polemical and venomous piece on him,” Malka wrote in a letter to the magazine obtained by the Independent. “The other day, the editor of Nouvel Observateur, Matthieu Croissandeau, couldn’t shed enough tears to say he would continue the fight. I didn’t know he meant it this way. I refuse to allow myself to be invaded by bad thoughts, but my disappointment is immense.”

Croissandeau responded by saying it was important to publish Roussel’s opinion.

“We received this text, and after a debate I decided to publish it in an edition on freedom of expression,” Croissandeau said. “It would have seemed to me worrisome to have censored his voice, even if it is discordant. Particularly as this is the voice of one of the pioneers of the gang.”

Roussel’s comments came as the surviving staffers of Charlie Hebdo released their latest issue, which quickly sold out at newsstands across Paris. The publishers said Wednesday they would print 5 million copies, or nearly 100 times Charlie Hebdo’s normal print run of 60,000.