French court orders comic Dieudonné to remove parts of YouTube video
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A French court on Wednesday ordered controversial comic Dieudonné to remove two sections of a video he has posted on YouTube that has been widely condemned as anti-Semitic.
In a ruling that will increase the pressure on the video-sharing website to ban the comedian from its platform altogether, a judge ruled that one of the passages breached French law on Holocaust denial and another one amounted to incitement to racial hatred.
Dieudonné M'bala M'bala was given five days to remove the passages or face a penalty of 500 euros per day for each of them left online.
Stephane Lilti, a lawyer representing France's Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), which brought the legal action, said they would now ask public prosecutors to ensure that the court's ruling is enforced.
The UEJF said it would approach YouTube for talks over the steps the site should take to ensure that "they respect their legal obligations in future".
YouTube, which has already withdrawn one Dieudonné video after he was convicted over its content, would not comment on whether it would be pulling the video -- "2014 Year of the Quenelle" -- that was the subject of Wednesday's ruling.
Dieudonné has been part of France’s comedy scene for years but, while he started out with a Jewish comedian in sketches that mocked racism, he gradually alienated some fans with anti-Jewish comments.
Dieudonné has been fined several times for defamation, using insulting language, hate speech and racial discrimination, and over his use of the provocative gesture the "quenelle" -- a stiff-armed pose that he defends as an anti-establishment gesture but which critics see as a disguised Nazi salute.
In the passage deemed to constitute Holocaust denial, Dieudonné claims to "know nothing about the gas chambers" but says he can organise a meeting for any interested parties with "Robert" -- which the court accepted was a reference to Robert Faurisson, a notorious former academic who claims the systematic massacres of Jews in World War II never happened.
"In the context of previous statements by Dieudonné, some of which have earned him convictions for hate speech, defamation and incitement to anti-Semitism, it seems clear that this reference amounts to disputing a crime against humanity," the judge, Marc Bailly, said in his ruling.
In the second contested section, Dieudonné insists he is not anti-Semitic and then goes on to say he shouldn't be required to judge between "the Jews and the Nazis".
"I don't know what happened, who provoked whom, who stole from whom," he adds, before delivering the punch-line, "I've got my little idea, but... you know."
Dieudonné's lawyers said these comments were clearly humorous but their argument was rejected by the judge who said any humour involved was being put at the service of Dieudonné's beliefs and desire to test the limits of free speech.
Thursday's court hearing was the latest battle in a war between Dieudonné and his supporters and opponents led by France's Socialist government. The government succeeded in preventing Dieudonné from touring his latest show around the country but it has been unable to prevent him performing and there is no sign of his popularity waning.
Last week, the 47-year-old was acquitted on charges related to another video in which he calls for the release of an Islamist militant serving life for the 2006 kidnap, torture and murder of French Jew Ilan Halimi.
The government has also targeted Dieudonné's finances. Efforts to get him to pay more than 65,000 euros in outstanding fines for his race-hate convictions have led to a probe into suspected money laundering and misuse of company assets by the comedian.
Dieudonné, who was banned from entering Britain last week, has long enjoyed cult popularity in France but has been catapulted to another level of fame in recent months by the way his “quenelle” gesture has caught on.
International footballer Nicolas Anelka, who used to play for the French national team, is currently awaiting the outcome of disciplinary proceedings against him after he performed a quenelle to celebrate a goal for his English club, West Brom, last month.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)