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PARIS (Reuters) - A French court on Tuesday banned a gossip magazine from further publishing topless photographs of the wife of Britain's Prince William, the former Kate Middleton, and ordered it to hand the pictures over to the royal couple.
The injunction granted to the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge, as the couple are formally known, also prevents France's Closer magazine from selling the pictures to other media.
The court in Nanterre, near Paris, earlier opened a criminal investigation into charges that the photographer who took the shots and Closer breached the privacy of the prince and his wife.
"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcome the judge's ruling," a spokeswoman for the royal couple said.
Closer will be fined 10,000 euros ($13,100) per day of delay in handing over the images, the court said in the civil ruling. The couple are also seeking damages from the weekly over its publication of the photographs in a five-page spread on Friday.
The pictures were taken while the couple were on holiday in a chateau in southern France and show the duchess slipping off her bikini top, relaxing on a sun lounger and at one point pulling down the back of her bikini bottoms.
Buckingham Palace has called the photo spread a "grotesque" invasion of the couple's privacy. The royal family want to make an example of Closer.
The pictures have rekindled memories in Britain of the media pursuit of William's mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi.
British newspapers, fighting for their reputation after a string of scandals, have agreed not to publish the images, as has the British edition of Closer, which is managed separately.
The Sun tabloid screamed: "Find Le Rat" on its front page on Tuesday and said the photographer would be found and face jail.
The court said police would investigate whether there were grounds for criminal charges against Closer and its publisher, Italy's Mondadori, and the photographer.
On Monday, the publisher of tabloid The Irish Daily Star suspended its editor after the newspaper broke ranks with Irish and British peers, publishing pages from Closer with the photographs in its Saturday edition.
Italian gossip magazine Chi, also published by Mondadori, printed a 26-page special edition dedicated to the pictures on Monday. ($1 = 0.7612 euros)
Reporting by Patrick Vignal and Thierry Leveque in Paris and Michael Holden in London; Writing by Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Pravin Char