Reuters International

A general view after earthquake that levelled the town in Amatrice, central Italy, September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

(reuters_tickers)

By Isla Binnie

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian town is pursuing legal action against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for a cartoon showing victims of an earthquake there as types of pasta, and another suggesting the mafia was to blame for the death toll of almost 300.

One cartoon, entitled "Earthquake Italian Style", captioned drawings of a bloodied and bandaged man "Penne in tomato sauce", a scratched and swollen woman "Penne au gratin", and a collapsed building with blood and feet emerging from it "Lasagne".

After Italians responded angrily, the magazine, famed for its provocative, taboo-busting cartoons, published a second one, showing a person half-buried under rubble saying: "Italians ... it's not Charlie Hebdo who built your homes, it's the mafia!"

Amatrice, the home of "amatriciana" pasta sauce, was flattened by the quake on Aug. 24.

The local government called the cartoons "a macabre, senseless and absurd insult to the victims," Mario Cicchetti, a lawyer for Amatrice city hall, told Reuters.

It has asked a local prosecutor to investigate Charlie Hebdo for "aggravated defamation", a crime for which the town would seek civil damages.

Even though the cartoons were published in France, Cicchetti said the legal case could be brought in Italy because they had been widely seen and shared there.

Twelve people were shot dead at Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris in 2015 by Islamist militants who accused the magazine of blasphemy for printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

The construction sector in Italy has long been plagued by inattention to regulations, and both regular building work and post-disaster reconstruction has at times been infiltrated by organised crime.

It is now up to the magistrates in Rieti, near Amatrice, to decide whether to take up the investigation against the cartoonists and the magazine's director, Cicchetti said.

Charlie Hebdo declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Richard Lough in Paris; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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