Controversial French comic Dieudonne probed for racial hatred

Controversial French comic Dieudonne probed for racial hatred
A man poses with one of his drawings showing a Jew character covering the mouth of an other character with a gag reading "freedom of speech" during a gathering in front of controversial French comic Dieudonne's theatre on December 28, 2013 in Paris, to protest against French Interior minister who called for Dieudonne's new tour performances to be banned. During the gathering, some protestors performed the "quenelle" gesture popularised by anti-establishment Dieudonne, who has been condemned in France on several occasions for anti-Semitism.

PARIS - Prosecutors in Paris on Monday launched a probe into whether a French comedian was guilty of inciting racial hatred by joking about "gas chambers" while talking about a Jewish journalist.

Dieudonne, who has drawn controversy over an increasingly copied trademark gesture that many view as a Nazi-style salute, is already facing a possible ban on public performances over anti-Semitic remarks.

The comedian maintains he is not anti-Jewish, and says the "quenelle", his provocative downward version of a Nazi salute, merely reflects his anti-establishment views.

Judicial sources said the probe would centre around a December 19 performance by 47-year-old Dieudonne at a Paris theatre where he mocked radio journalist Patrick Cohen, who is Jewish.

"When I hear Patrick Cohen speak, I tell myself, you know, the gas chambers... Shame," Dieudonne had said.

The comedian has been in the eye of several storms recently.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls is considering whether to ban all public appearances by Dieudonne, saying he is "no longer a comedian" but rather an "anti-Semite and racist" who fell afoul of national laws against incitement to racial hatred.

And his friend, French striker Nicolas Anelka, replicated the salute after scoring a goal in Britain, risking possible sanctions from the Football Association.

Anelka argued in tweets that the gesture - in which he thrust his straightened right arm downwards while tapping his bicep with the other hand - was merely "anti-establishment".

The comedian, whose full name is Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, has been fined seven times for defamation, insult, hate speech and for racial discrimination.

He has described Holocaust celebrations as "memorial pornography", made "Heil"-like signs on television as part of a sketch and befriended far-right leaders such as Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Dieudonne decries what he calls the "domination of Zionists" in Western societies and the overemphasis on the horrors of the Holocaust to the exclusion of other crimes, like slavery and racism.

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