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Film director fights blasphemy ban

The author Salman Rushdie yesterday defended Nigel Wingrove's right to freedom of expression as the film director began his fight against Britain's blasphemy law in the European Court of Human Rights.

In a written submission Mr Rushdie, who successfully defended his novel The Satanic Verses against charges of blasphemy before a British court in 1989, said: "Freedom of religious belief is as important a concept as freedom of speech ... But while it is surely proper that our laws should protect people's right to believe in whatever they may choose, it is just as surely wrong to privilege the beliefs ... by protecting them against dissent, satire and disbelief."

Geoffrey Robertson QC argued for Mr Wingrove that banning his film Visions of Ecstasy, about St Teresa of Avila's visions of Christ, breached his freedom of expression guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. The film was refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Classification.

A judgment is expected in the summer.