French Court Upholds Ban on French Comic Known for Nazi-like Salute

France's highest administrative court maintains ban after it was overturned in Nantes court, hours before Dieudonne's performance.

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France's highest administrative court reinstated a ban on a show by the controversial comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala only one hour before it was due to start in Nantes, BFMTV channel reported.

The ruling came after a lower court ruled the show could go ahead and as spectators were gathering for the show, for which nearly 6,000 tickets had been sold.

In its ruling, the Council of State - which has previously ruled against bans on Dieudonne performances - cited the risk to public order were the show to proceed.

The black comedian has gained prominence over the last year for his racist remarks and for the Internet-driven success of his trademark "quenelle", an arm gesture some have described as a reverse Nazi salute, recently performed by French footballer Nicolas Anelka after scoring a goal.

Fans outside the theatre booed after hearing the news.

"We're disappointed, we came for nothing," one fan told BFM-TV. "Even if you don't agree with what's being said, everyone should be able to express themselves."  

Dieudonne's appealed the recent decision to ban his stand-up show in a number of French towns, British media reported on Thursday. Earlier on Thursday, a local court in Nantes overturned the ban on his first performance of a 22-stage tour around France, French media reported.

In its decision overturning the ban, Nantes' administrative court found that the show "cannot be regarded as undermining human dignity." Concerning claims that Dieudonne's performance might lead to disturbance to the public order, the court ruled that these threats can be handled by the local authorities, and "could not justify such a drastic measure as banning the show." 

Several French towns have banned the comedian from performing in their prefect, said the Independent.

These prohibitions are the consequences of a government circular issued on Monday, strongly suggesting that regional prefects prohibit Dieudonne from performing if they determine that his show could lead to "criminal offenses," according to The Independent.

Some politicians on the right had criticized the government for devoting so much energy to Dieudonne, and a former conservative interior minister said the approach was ill-prepared.

"In effect it's given untold publicity to Dieudonne," said Brice Hortefeux, interior minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy, told BFM TV.  

The Jewish CRIF umbrella organisation called for a protest in central Paris on Sunday against Dieudonne and urged the government to renew efforts to block him performing.

CRIF urged a strong showing "in every city where Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala is holding his hateful and nauseating meetings," it said in a statement.
In a tweet, Dieudonne taunted Valls and thanked his fans, who have bought more than 5,000 tickets to see the Nantes show.  

Dieudonne has also been under investigation for nearly a year for alleged money laundering, the Singapore-based The Straits Times reported. The humorist owes tax authorities more than 800,000 euros and is suspected of using third parties to send money to his father's homeland, Cameroon, according to the report. 

French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala.Credit: Reuters

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