France: Controversial humorist could be fined EUR 30 000 for Facebook post
The French Public Prosecutor is seeking a fine of EUR 30 000 against the controversial humorist Dieudonné, who testified in court today on charges of allegedly glorifying terrorism. The defendant feels he is innocent of the charges; the prosecutor could have sought a multiple-year prison sentence against him as well.
French news servers have reported that the court will rule on the case in the coming days. "You know, this evening, as far as I am concerned, I feel like I am Charlie Coulibaly," Dieudonné posted to Facebook on 10 January, referencing the "Je suis Charlie" slogan used by people in France and worldwide to express solidarity with the editors of Charlie Hebdo magazine.
On 7 January the magazine's offices became the target of a bloody attack by two armed men who killed 12 people, including the Editor-in-Chief and several caricaturists. Dieudonné then added the surname of a third assassin, Amedy Coulibaly, to the slogan after Coulibaly killed four Jewish people in a kosher shop in Paris two days later in a separate attack.
Today Dieudonné assured the court that he has always unequivocally condemned the assassinations that took place at the start of January in Paris. He ascribed his controversial Facebook post to his profession as a comedian and satirist.
The defendant also criticized some officials for treating him as some sort of terrorist, which in his view was unfair. The Public Prosecutor could have sought up to seven years in prison and a fine of EUR 100 000 against Dieudonné under France's anti-terrorism laws.
That level of punishment, according to the website of the French daily Le Parisien, could be brought against the defendant should he fail to pay the EUR 30 000 fine, which most probably will be levied against him because he is a recidivist. The humorist, whose full name is Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, is the son of a Cameroonian man and a Frenchwoman, and he used to actively speak out against racism earlier in his career.
In later years, however, he began to associate with representatives of the ultra-right and performed in one-man shows that featured material attacking Jewish people. He has faced several lawsuits and been convicted six times of manifesting hatred toward Jews.
In 2006 Dieudonné was fined EUR 4 500 for calling a Jewish television moderator "a secret donor to the child-murdering Israeli Army". In 2008 he had to pay EUR 7 000 for calling a Holocaust memorial event "commemorative pornography".
The French courts have also banned several of his shows. Last year he was also charged with tax fraud.
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