'Quenelle' Comic Dieudonne Wins Court Battle on Ban Over 'Nazi' Gesture

Judge Rules M'bala-M'bala Shows Can Go On


By Reuters

Published January 09, 2014.
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A French court threw out efforts by authorities to ban a show on Thursday by a comedian whom the government accuses of insulting the memory of Holocaust victims.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who has been leading the effort to stop a national tour by comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, said he would appeal the ruling by an administrative court in the western city of Nantes.

The Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, would convene at 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) to examine whether to uphold Valls’ appeal, which would reinstate the ban on the show, due to begin two hours later.

“The judge will mostly likely take his decision this evening,” a Council spokeswoman said.

Previously, the Council has ruled against bans ordered by local authorities on Dieudonne performances.

Local authorities in Nantes had barred the opening date of Dieudonne’s tour, following the lead of other cities which also banned his shows on the grounds of risk to public order.

Dieudonne’s lawyer Jacques Verdier said the Nantes court had suspended the ban, describing the ruling as a “total and complete victory” for his client, who has argued his right to freedom of expression was being breached.

Critics say the comic’s trademark straight-arm gesture is a Nazi salute in reverse. Dieudonne, 46, says it is anti-Zionist and anti-establishment, but not anti-Semitic.

Dieudonne has been repeatedly fined for hate speech.

The decision of the court is a setback for President Francois Hollande, who argued for regional prefects to remain “on alert and inflexible” in determining whether or not to ban the shows, and for Valls, shown by polls to be France’s most popular politician for his tough law and order stance.

A former conservative interior minister said Valls’ approach was ill-prepared.

“In effect it’s given untold publicity to Dieudonne,” said Brice Hortefeux, interior minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy, told BFM TV.

The Jewish CRIF umbrella organisation called for a protest in central Paris on Sunday against Dieudonne and urged the government to renew efforts to block him performing.

CRIF urged a strong showing “in every city where Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala is holding his hateful and nauseating meetings,” it said in a statement.

In a tweet, Dieudonne taunted Valls and thanked his fans, who have bought more than 5,000 tickets to see the Nantes show.


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