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French court decision on topless photos due Tuesday
PARIS/DUBLIN (Reuters) - A French court will rule on Tuesday whether to grant an injunction sought by Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate against magazine Closer to prevent further publication of topless photos of her.
In a case that has rocked Britain and reawakened debate on privacy laws, lawyers for the royal couple, titled the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are seeking damages from Closer and have filed a separate complaint against a photographer that could lead to a criminal case.
The couple have sought an injunction to stop Closer from selling its photographs to any other media, including on the Internet, after the Irish Daily Star reprinted the photographs in its Saturday edition.
The publisher of the Dublin tabloid said on Monday evening it had suspended its editor over the newspaper's decision to publish pages from Closer with the photographs.
The British press have agreed informally not to publish the pictures, which show the former Kate Middleton slipping off her bikini top, relaxing topless on a sun lounger and pulling down her bikini bottoms as her husband applies lotion.
William's office branded the photos a "grotesque and totally unjustified" invasion of their privacy.
An official at the court in Nanterre, near Paris, said the decision would be handed down on Tuesday.
Copies of Closer's Friday edition flew off the shelves in France, snapped up by collectors, British tourists and curious French readers as controversy over the photos raged.
Newspaper vendor Jeremy Alluard said his 30 copies of the magazine had sold out in an hour and a half.
"There's no way of getting any more at the depot, there are no more to be had," he said.
A second vendor, Omar Abdel, said he had sold many copies to British tourists who explained they were unable to get hold of the weekly in Britain.
Buckingham Palace is also seeking damages from Closer's publisher, Italian company Mondadori, which is owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Closer defended its publication of a dozen long-lens shots of the duchess sunbathing on the balcony of a secluded villa.
Britain's tabloid papers, fighting for their reputations after a series of recent scandals, have refrained from publishing the pictures, although they are available elsewhere.
Independent Star, publisher of the Irish Daily Star, said in a statement that the newspaper's editor, Michael O'Kane, had been suspended with immediate effect after a meeting between its two shareholders on Monday and pending an investigation into the circumstances of the publication of the photos.
Northern and Shell, the Irish paper's British co-owner, said on Saturday it was dismayed by the publication of the photographs. Chairman Richard Desmond said he was taking "immediate steps to close down the joint venture" with Independent News and Media (INM), Ireland's biggest media company, which publishes the paper.
Italian gossip magazine Chi printed a 26-page special edition dedicated to the photos on Monday. Editor Alfonso Signorini told Reuters the images were harmless and that the balcony where the Duchess was sunbathing was visible from the street.
(Reporting by Gerard Bon and Morade Azzouz in Paris and Lorraine Turner in Dublin; Editing by Roger Atwood)
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