Euro court rejects French comic's plea over fine for anti-Semitism

Tue Nov 10, 2015 8:22am EST
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PARIS (Reuters) - The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected claims by a French comedian that his right to speak freely was denied when he was convicted and fined in France for insulting Jews.

The court said Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, a provocative performer who has been repeatedly accused of hate speech and anti-Semitism, could not claim the protection of free speech guarantees in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Siding with the French court that convicted him in 2009, the European rights tribunal said it would not hear his appeal of the conviction because the show that led to it was "unmistakably negationist and anti-Semitic in nature."

"If admitted, (the appeal) would contribute to the destruction of Convention rights and freedoms," the court based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg said in a statement explaining its decision to reject his application.

At issue was a 2008 show in which the comedian, known by his stage name Dieudonne, invited an academic who had been convicted by French courts for denying the existence of Nazi gas chambers to join him on stage and collect "a prize for unfrequentability and insolence".

The comedian himself was wearing a pair of striped pyjamas like the clothing worn by concentration camp inmates, complete with a stitched-on yellow star bearing the word Jew, the rights court said in a statement.

It said it backed the initial verdict of France's courts that the show "could no longer be seen as entertainment but had taken on the appearance of a political meeting."

Dieudonne, Paris-born son of a Cameroonian father and French mother, began his comedy career with a Jewish sidekick in the early 1990s and appeared in several films.

Originally active with anti-racist left-wing groups, he began openly criticizing Jews and Israel in 2002 and ran in the European elections two years later with a pro-Palestinian party. He says he is not anti-Semitic but anti-Zionist.   Continued...

French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, also known as just "Dieudonne", attends a news conference at the "Theatre de la Main d'or" in Paris January 11, 2014. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes