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France bans 'anti-semitic' comic

January 9, 2014

France's top administrative court has upheld a ban against a comedian for using anti-semitic jokes. The top court's decision came just hours before his opening night show in the western city of Nantes.

Dieudonne M’bala M’bala
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

France's judges in the Council of State - the country's highest administrative court - issued a last-minute decision on Thursday evening which banned comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala (pictured) from performing on opening night. The ruling upheld a previous ban on the comic for racist remarks aimed at the Jewish population.

French Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault praised the decision, saying it reinforced "the government's position" to stamp out "anti-Semitic excesses."

Interior Minister Manuel Valls had appealed to the judges in the Council of State on Thursday evening to reverse the lower court decision from earlier that day which would have allowed the performance to go on. Valls called the court's ruling a "victory for the Republic."

The 46-year-old comedian has become known for critical remark of Jews, which he contends are anti-Zionist, but not anti-Semitic. Dieudonne also makes a downward Nazi salute, known as a "quenelle," as part of his act, which he contends is an anti-establishment gesture.

A recent online video, titled The Wall, features him urinating against a wall, later revealed to be the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Dieudonne was also filmed last month making a joke involving a Jewish radio journalist and Nazi gas chambers.

Dieudonne had been scheduled to perform in front of an audience of some 5,000 people in the western French city of Nantes on Thursday.

Hate speech?

Earlier in the day, a court in the French city of Nantes had cleared the way for Dieudonne to perform by suspending a local ban on his act.

The French government argued that racist remarks were not protected under the freedom of speech. However, Nantes Judge Francois Molla ruled that Dieudonne was not engaging in hate speech.

"The essential aim of the show cannot be considered as being an attempt to violate human dignity," Nantes Judge Francois Molla said Thursday

Multiple fines already levied against Dieudonne already come to roughly 65,290 euros ($88,500).

An attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in March 2012 raised fears in France of a rise in anti-semitic sympathies. Nevertheless, some French officials - including former French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux - have criticized legal action against Dieudonne as pushing his racist views into the spotlight.

kms/hc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)