French court set to rule on Kate topless photos injunction

A French court is set to rule Tuesday on whether to ban the resale of photos of Prince William's wife Catherine sunbathing topless, after the British royal family sought an injunction.

The court decision is expected at 1000 GMT Tuesday on the couple's request for the injunction banning the republication or resale of the photos, which their lawyer said were from a "highly intimate moment" which had no place in the public domain.

The legal action came as an Italian magazine splashed the blurry pictures of Catherine wearing only bikini bottoms across a special edition Monday with the front-page headline: "The queen is nude!"

As the furore over the exposed royal breasts continued in Europe, the couple on a visit to the Solomon Islands appeared unperturbed when they were introduced to a group of topless South Pacific women.

The prosecutor's office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said it had received a complaint against persons unknown from the royal couple.

The pair have said that they are seeking criminal charges for the alleged breach of French privacy law brought against both the French gossip magazine Closer and the photographer, whose identity the publication has not revealed.

They are also seeking an injunction to prevent Closer -- which is owned by Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Mondadori group -- from re-selling the candid images of the future queen taken during a private holiday in the south of France this month.

At the hearing in Nanterre into the injunction request, lawyer Aurelien Hamelle said the pictures were taken "in a highly intimate moment during a scene of married life and have no place on the cover of a magazine."

Drawing a parallel with the "fatal hunt" by paparazzi that led to the death of William's mother Princess Diana, Hamelle urged the presiding judge to grant an injunction against all republishing of the photographs in print and in digital form and to ban their resale.

He said they were not however requesting the withdrawal of current issues of Closer from news stands, saying "the damage is done".

The prince, who is second-in-line to the British throne, is furious over the images, which drew comparisons with press harassment of his mother Diana who died in a Paris car crash in 1997 while pursued by paparazzi.

No newspaper or magazine in Britain -- whose racy, mass-selling tabloids have frequently been accused of unwarranted intrusion into the lives of the rich and famous -- has announced plans to publish the offending photographs.

But the possibility of legal action failed to intimidate Irish and Italian titles, with the half-naked pics of Catherine sunning herself appearing Saturday in a Dublin tabloid and in Italy's Chi magazine on Monday.

Chi, which like Closer is owned by Berlusconi's Mondadori group, produced a special edition featuring the grainy photos along with a series of articles over 28 pages on topics such as "Kate's breasts, natural or fake?"

The magazine's editor Alfonso Signorini argued that the pictures represented "extraordinary reportage."

"For the first time, the future queen of England was appearing in a natural way, without the constraints of etiquette," he wrote.

In 2006, Chi sparked outrage in Britain when it printed a photo of a fatally injured Diana being given oxygen at the scene of the high-speed crash in a Paris road tunnel in 1997, together with details from her autopsy.

A palace spokeswoman hinted Sunday that the royal family could also launch legal action against both Chi and the Irish Daily Star.

Unlike Mondadori, the media groups that jointly own the Irish paper condemned its decision to run the pictures.

Michael O'Kane, the editor of the Irish Daily Star was suspended Monday as the paper's joint owners, British group Northern and Shell and Ireland-based Independent News and Media criticised the decision to print the offending paparazzi snaps.

Northern and Shell said it was now taking "immediate steps" to shut down the joint venture. It was unclear whether Independent News would seek to keep the paper going.

Last month, photos emerged of William's brother Prince Harry cavorting naked with women at a Las Vegas party.

The two images of Harry are widely available on the Internet but in Britain only The Sun newspaper published them.

The palace has said the couple "remain focused" on their nine-day southeast Asian and Pacific tour marking Queen Elizabeth's 60 years on the throne.

They seemed at ease in the company of the topless women they were introduced to on Monday in the Solomons, where bare breasts are a normal part of public life.

The couple on Tuesday arrived in remote Tuvalu, where nearly half the population of 10,500 turned out to greet the future king and his wife.

When William and Catherine stepped off their private jet they were carried on multi-coloured thrones to the parliament building where they were welcomed by Governor General Sir Iakoba Taeia Italeli and Prime Minister Willy Telavi.

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