A controversial French comedian, Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, has been arrested after posting apparent support for Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who killed four in a Paris kosher supermarket last week.
Dieudonné attended the Parisian rally in support of the Charlie Hebdo victims on Sunday, along with over three million other people. Upon completion of the march he mocked the superlatives used by the media to describe the event, taking to Facebook to say: “After this historic, no legendary, march, a magic moment equal to the Big Bang which created the Universe, or in a smaller way comparable to the crowning of the [ancient Gaullish king] Vercingétorix, I am going home.”
He concluded “Let me say that this evening, as far as I am concerned, I feel I am Charlie Coulibaly.” – combining the name of the magazine Charlie Hebdo and the terrorist Amedy Coulibaly.
His statement sparked a furious backlash on the internet, including on his own Facebook page, and was withdrawn less than an hour later.
On Monday the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazaneuve denounced the comment as “abject”, and ordered his officials to investigate Dieudonné for apologism for terrorism, which is outlawed by French law.
Dieudonné has hit back at the government, claiming that his freedom of speech is being restricted. In an open letter to Mr Cazaneuve, he protested that he had been misunderstood, saying that what he meant by the statement was that “I am considered like another Amedy Coulibaly when in fact I am no different from Charlie.”
However, he has long been known as an anti-Semite as he has been fined a number of times for making anti-Semitic statements. His stage show, which had to be re-written to exclude jokes which mocked the Holocaust, has been banned in a number of French towns.
He has also suggested that a Jewish radio presenter reminded him “of gas chambers”, and mocked the brutal killing of American reporter James Foley at the hands of Islamic State terrorists.
Last year, Paris-born Dieudonné became known internationally, after former French striker Nicolas Anelka was banned by the Football authorities for five matches after using a hand signal created by Dieudonné to celebrate a Premier League goal. The signal is said to mimic the Nazi salute.
His lawyer Jacques Verdier has told BFM-TV that arresting Dieudonné for the Charlie Coulibaly comment was “completely out of proportion”. If he is found guilty of apologising for terrorism, he faces a fine of up to €5,000 and up to seven years in jail.