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Court orders French magazine to turn over Kate Middleton photos (+video)

The French celebrity gossip magazine Closer has 24 hours to turn over photos of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless, or face a $13,000 fine a day until it does so.

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The injunction granted Tuesday does not apply to publications outside France that have opted to run the photos, including Closer’s sister magazine in Italy. An Irish newspaper has also published revealing pictures of Middleton, which led senior executives at the paper to suspend its editor and prompted Ireland’s justice minister to call for the introduction of privacy laws.

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No British news organization has picked up the photos, which surfaced a few weeks after the Sun sparked thousands of complaints by publishing photos of William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, having a naked romp in a hotel room in Las Vegas.

Britain’s sensation-seeking tabloids generally have been more circumspect in their treatment of the royal family since Diana’s death in a 1997 car crash.

This time, restraint over the photos of Middleton may also be due in part to a soon-to-be-released report by an independent judicial inquiry into media ethics. The investigation was sparked by Britain’s phone-hacking scandal, which first came to light when police discovered that a tabloid reporter was illegally accessing voice mails left for aides to William and Harry. Britain’s media establishment is hoping that the report will not contain too strong a censure or a call for press regulation.

Though the royal household won in court in France on Tuesday, it suffered a setback at home when a freedom-of-information tribunal ordered the British government to disclose confidential letters written by Prince Charles, heir to the throne, to government ministers.

The panel sided with the Guardian newspaper, which had demanded the documents’ release on the grounds that the prince has used his position to try to influence political decisions, something he is not supposed to do.

Charles is well-known for speaking out on such issues as genetically modified foods, which he opposes, and modern architecture, which he detests.

“An important feature when Prince Charles is seeking to promote a charity or to promote a view on policy is that he has an ability to use privileged access to ministers,” the panel said. “Correspondence from him … will quickly come to the attention of the minister, who is likely to take a personal interest.”

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(Special correspondent Willsher reported from Paris and staff writer Chu from London.)

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