UK & World News

  • 10 January 2014, 9:58

French Comic's Tour In Doubt After Court Ban

Riot police had to be brought in to contain furious fans of a controversial French comedian after he was banned from performing by a court just hours before he was due on stage.

The 47-year-old comic Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who has been condemned as an anti-Semitic "pedlar of hate", was scheduled to perform his controversial show when France's highest administrative court, the Council of State, ruled he could not take to the stage.

The ban on Dieudonne's Nantes show was greeted with boos and jeers by hundreds of the comedian's fans at the Zenith theatre, where the performance was due to take place.

Many of the comic's supporters performed the "quenelle" gesture as riot police blocked access to the theatre.

Described by critics as a disguised Nazi salute, it involves holding the right arm straight while pointing to the ground, then touching the right bicep with the left hand.

The court ruling banning the show overturned a decision made only hours earlier by Nantes Judge Jean-Francois Molla, who had determined it could go ahead.

But Judge Bernard Stirn of the Council of State said in his decision that there was an "established" risk of "trouble to public order" should the show proceed.

The decision leaves the rest of Dieudonne's national tour dates in doubt.

The comedian is scheduled to perform a series of shows through to June, including performances in Belgium and Switzerland.

At least eight other French cities have already sought bans to prevent Dieudonne from performing.

The comedian is at the centre of an increasingly bitter row about race and freedom of speech in France.

The French government has condemned him as a "pedlar of hate", and the comic has repeatedly been convicted under anti-racism legislation.

Supporters of the comedian have been photographed performing the "quenelle" gesture outside Jewish synagogues in France and abroad, and even outside the site of theAuschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland.

Last month the West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka faced criticism after he performed the gesture while celebrating a goal at Upton Park.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who has led a campaign to ban the comedian,hailed the Nantes ban as a victory.

"We cannot tolerate hatred of others, racism, anti-Semitism or holocaust denial," he said.

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