France: Harsh crackdown against anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hate speech, comedian arrested
Last Wednesday, police in Paris arrested the controversial French humorist and political polemicist Dieudonné on suspicions of supporting terrorism in connection with the recent assassinations committed by Islamist radicals there. The Associated Press reported that as of 15 January, the office of the Public Prosecutor in Paris had arrested 54 people on charges of defending or glorifying terrorism.
Some of those arrested have already been convicted according to Stéphane Le Foll, a spokesperson for France's left-wing government, who did not give any further details. The arrests have been part of strict security measures and raids through which the authorities are doing their best to prevent other similar terrorist attacks.
The Government intends to push harsher anti-terrorist measures through in Parliament as well. The Associated Report also reported that the French Government instructed prosecutors nationwide to harshly intervene against anti-Semitism and similar manifestations of hate.
The French Justice Ministry has emphasized that France has harsh laws against racism and similar hate speech and that there is a need to thoroughly apply them. According to Agence France-Presse, criminal prosecutions have begun in 15 cases of graffiti and 10 attacks against mosques using arson, explosives and weapons.
There are also 11 cases of disseminating anti-Muslim fliers and statements being investigated. French justice authorities have also begun to investigate Dieudonné for having claimed last Sunday that he sympathized with the murderer of four Jewish people and that he supported anti-Semitism and terrorism.
The controversial 48-year-old artist has been convicted of anti-Semitism several times. "You know, this evening, as far as I am concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly," Agence France-Presse reports that Dieudonné posted to Facebook, referring to the slogan "Je suis Charlie", which people in France and elsewhere around the world have used to express solidarity with the Paris editors of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
On 7 January the magazine became the target of a bloody attack by two armed men. Dieudonné altered the slogan by adding the surname of a third assassin, Amedy Coulibaly, who murdered four Jewish people in a kosher shop in Paris during a separate attack of his own.
The humorist, whose full name is Dieudonné M'bala M'bala and who is the son of a Cameroonian man and a Frenchwoman, used to actively speak out against racism. Later, however, he began to associate with representatives of the ultra-right and to verbally attack Jewish people in his one-man shows.
He has faced several lawsuits and been convicted six times of hate speech against Jewish people. In 2006, for example, he 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". Justice authorities have banned some of his shows and last year he was also charged with tax fraud.
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