U.S. backs right to publish Muhammad caricatures

The Obama administration on Tuesday tempered its views on caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, refusing to criticize a satirical French magazine for publishing such images less than a week after a deadly attack on its headquarters.

Previously, the United States had criticized depictions of the Muslim prophet while defending free speech rights.

In 2006, the Bush administration described such cartoons in a Danish newspaper as “offensive,” likening them to anti-Semitic and anti-Christian imagery. In 2012, the Obama administration questioned the judgment of Charlie Hebdo for similar depictions and said they could be “inflammatory.”

On Tuesday, the State Department refused to criticize new Charlie Hebdo cartoons released this week or say if the U.S. considered them anti-Muslim. The White House was similarly restrained Monday.

“Regardless of what anyone’s personal opinion is, and I know there are very heated personal opinions about this, we absolutely support the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish things like this,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “That’s what happens in a democracy. Period.”

Tsarnaev team asks judge to suspend jury selection

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a judge on Tuesday to suspend jury selection in his trial for at least a month because the recent terrorist attacks in France have again placed the marathon bombings “at the center of a grim global drama.”

The lawyers said a delay would allow some time “for the extraordinary prejudice flowing from these events … to diminish.”

French premier demands crackdown on terrorism

France’s prime minister demanded tougher anti-terrorism measures Tuesday after deadly attacks that some call this country’s Sept. 11 – and that may already be leading to a crackdown on liberties in exchange for greater security.

Police said the weapons used came from abroad, as authorities in several countries searched for possible accomplices and sources of financing for last week’s attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, a kosher market and police.