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Monday 19 February 2018

Dieudonne in court on terror charge

French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala gestures as he leaves a Paris courthouse (AP)
French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala gestures as he leaves a Paris courthouse (AP)

Controversial French comic Dieudonne M'bala M'bala went on trial today charged with "defending terrorism" in a Facebook post after last month's three-day terror spree in Paris.

The comic, known by his stage name Dieudonne, said on Facebook: "I feel like Charlie Coulibaly."

The post, which has since been taken down, merges the names of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine where two gunmen killed 12 people, and that of Amedy Coulibaly, who prosecutors say killed four hostages at a kosher supermarket and a policewoman.

The three Muslim extremists were killed in nearly simultaneous raids by security forces on January 9.

It was the second time in seven days that the comic has faced a court. Last week, he faced charges of inciting racial hatred.

In a tough new crackdown on terrorism, France is going after anyone seen as supporting terror in any form. Scores of people have gone before courts for perceived backing of terrorism or the Paris attackers.

The prosecution asked that Dieudonne be fined 150 euros (£112) per day for 200 days, a total of 30,000 euros (£22,400). The verdict was set for March 18, a day before the verdict in last week's trial in which the prosecution sought a one-off fine of 30,000 euros.

Dieudonne, 48, has been convicted a dozen times on racism or anti-semitism charges. Last year, French authorities banned several of his performances, in which he made light of the Holocaust and popularised a gesture some describe as an inverted Nazi salute.

Dieudonne, with an ardent following, claims he is unfairly targeted for what amounts to humour. His lawyer, David De Stefano, said his Facebook post falls into the realm of his art.

The defence claimed that Dieudonne is the victim of a double standard by which freedom of expression is protected for some but not for him.

Maryam Lakhal, a 19-year-old law student and Dieudonne fan who waited outside the courtroom, noted that Charlie Hebdo can mock Islam's prophet because there is no law against blasphemy, but Dieudonne's remarks fall under the ban on racism and anti-semitism.

"There are gaps in French law," she said.

Press Association

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