The European Court of Human Rights says France violated freedom of expression by fining a man for insulting former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Herve Eon, a Socialist activist, had waved a small placard reading "Casse-toi, pauv'con" - which translates as "get lost, you sad prick".
Sarkozy had said "Casse-toi, pauv'con" earlier in 2008 in response to a farmer who had refused to shake his hand at an agricultural show. His use of the crude phrase had provoked a flood of controversy.
For using the same phrase, Eon was found guilty of insulting the president under France's 1881 Freedom of the Press Act. However, the European Court said the penalty imposed had been "disproportionate" and violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguards freedom of expression.
A court press release said such action by the authorities was "likely to have a chilling effect on satirical contributions to discussion of matters of public interest, such discussion being fundamental to a democratic society".