Controversial French comedian Dieudonné told a court on Wednesday that he condemns “without ambiguity” last month’s shootings in Paris as he went on trial for comments he made that appeared to express solidarity with one of the gunmen.
Dieudonné M'bala M'bala was arrested on January 14 after he posted a comment on Facebook saying, “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.”
The post, which has since been taken down, merges the slogan “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) – which became a global rallying cry against extremism following the January 7 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo – and the name of Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed four people at a kosher supermarket days later.
Dieudonné's arrest was one of dozens of cases opened for "condoning terrorism" or "making threats to carry out terrorist acts" in the wake of the attacks, which left a total of 17 people dead in three days of terror.
"Of course I condemn the attacks, without any restraint and without any ambiguity," Dieudonné, 48, told a court in Paris.
The comedian is a controversial figure who has often made headlines, most notably with his trademark "quenelle" hand gesture that looks like an inverted Nazi salute but which he insists is merely anti-establishment.
Branded a "peddler of hate" by the government, Dieudonné has also attracted anger over sketches widely viewed as anti-Semitic that have occasionally prompted local authorities to ban his shows. He already has multiple convictions for hate speech to his name.
But his arrest – and those of several others, some of whom were sent to jail for between one and four years – has raised new questions about free speech in France.
Dieudonné told the court that he had wanted to take part in a mammoth march against extremism in Paris on January 11, but decided against it as he felt unwelcome, instead attending a smaller demonstration near his home in northern France.
"I feel treated like a terrorist," he said.
Dieudonné faces up to seven years in prison and a €100,000 ($114,000) fine if found guilty.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2015-02-04