The controversial French comedian behind the anti-Semitic ‘Quenelle‘ gesture has been handed a two month prison sentence for a comedy routine he performed three years ago.
The show, which was presented in the city of Liege has been judged to have contained racist and anti-Semitic material, and as well as the jail sentence comic Dieudonne M’bala M’bala has been handed a €9,000 ($9,500) fine, reports the BBC.
The comic was accused with incitement to hatred and hate speech, and Holocaust denial by a Belgian Jewish organisation. Eric Lemmens, a lawyer for the group said of the judgement “For me this is more than satisfying, this is a major victory”.
Shows performed by the Mr. M’bala in the past have taken aim at the Holocaust, which he claims received disproportionate attention at the expense of other historical atrocities. Mr. M’bala says he uses comedy to highlight what he perceives as the discrepancy. He complains the same laws used against him when he jokes about the Holocaust are not used when others — such as Charlie Hebdo — makes jokes about Islam.
The 2008 show involved Mr. M’bala inviting a Holocaust survivor onto the stage and presenting him with a trophy. An actor also joined the couple on stage, dressed in striped pyjamas complete with a yellow star, and gave the man a menorah topped with three apples.
Taking to Facebook after the Charlie Hebdo killings, Mr. M’bala insulted users of the ‘Je suis Charlie’ meme by saying he identified more closely with Islamist terrorist Amedy Coulibaly who killed four at the Paris kosher supermarket. The Facebook post generated significant controversy and M’bala was arrested, prompting him to remark that his comments were in relation to the erosion of freedom of speech in France being eroded.
He said his treatment by the French government, being constantly arrested and fined made him feel like he was being persecuted like a terrorist, whereas in reality he was more like the staff of Charlie Hebdo, using comedy to mock society.
The European Court of Human Rights already ruled this month on another case relating to Mr. M’bala. The court found against the comedian, ruling that freedom of expression protections did not extend to his comedy, and he had no right to make anti-Semitic jokes. Instead, the court said his comedy was merely an “attack”, “disguised as an artistic performance”.