Bridget Bardot

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There's no question that, in her heyday, Brigitte Bardot was a great beauty. These days, however, she seems to tempt nothing but trouble.

French prosecutors have charged the 73-year-old actress and animal-rights activist with inciting racial hatred for a letter she penned in 2004 to France's then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy complaining about the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Kabir, which traditionally calls for a sheep to be slaughtered.

In the letter, which was later published in the quarterly journal belonging to Bardot's eponymous animal-welfare foundation, the ...And God Created Woman star attributed France's perceived decline to its growing Muslim population.

"I am fed up with being under the thumb of this population which is destroying us, destroying our country and imposing its acts," Bardot wrote.

The activist group Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples, or MRAP, filed suit against her last year.

Bardot, citing a physical illness, did not appear in court Tuesday to sit in on the start of her trial. In her absence, lawyers argued her remarks were taken out of the intended context, which was her longtime vigilant support of animal rights.

The former screen siren has been fined four times since 1997 for violating France's strict antiracism laws, which prohibit the incitement of religious or racial hatred and discrimination. Bardot's first conviction came for a letter published in the newspaper El Figaro in which she complained about a large influx of Muslims contributing to "foreign overpopulation."

"I am a little tired of prosecuting Ms. Bardot," assistant prosecutor Anne de Fontette said Tuesday. In light of the actress' prior history, she is asking the court to fine the former toast of Saint-Tropez approximately $23,900 and give her a suspended two-month prison sentence.

A verdict is expected on June 3.

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