PARIS (Reuters) - A French court breached freedom of expression laws when it censured the glossy magazine Paris Match in 2005 for publishing photos and an article about the illegitimate son of Prince Albert of Monaco, Europe's human rights court ruled on Thursday.
The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights ruled that the article in which "Ms C" alleged that the ruler of Monaco had fathered her son, and photos of the prince with the child, fell outside the sphere of private life protected by French law.
"As this was an issue of political significance, the court found that the public had a legitimate interest in knowing of the child's existence and being able to conduct a debate on the possible implications for political life in the Principality of Monaco," the court wrote.
Prince Albert II is the head of the centuries-old House of Grimaldi and son of the late Prince Rainier III and actress Grace Kelly. He married South African former national swimming champion Charlene Wittstock in 2011.
The couple announced last month they were expecting a child.
Prince Albert sued Paris Match in May 2005 in a French court, which awarded him 50,000 euros ($68,100) in damages. That award was upheld in an appeals court.
After the original ruling, Prince Albert issued a statement publicly acknowledging that the child of Togolese-born air hostess Nicole Coste was his.
Thursday's four-to-three judgment is not final, as any party has the right to request that it be referred to the full court. If that request is deemed valid, the case will be heard by the grand chamber of 17 judges, but it is rare for a case to be accepted.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Mark John and Sonya Hepinstall)