French 'anti-Semitic' comic defiant despite fresh legal setback

PARIS (AFP) - Controversial French comedian Dieudonne sought to defy a ban on his shows over their "anti-Semitic" slant, announcing four performances in Paris on Saturday despite a police decree in the capital against them.

The comic branded a "peddlar of hate" by the government for his diatribes against Jews announced the shows on his Facebook page, despite a police ban in force against them from Friday evening through to Wednesday.

Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala also suffered a fresh legal setback on Saturday morning when an administrative court in Orleans upheld a ban on a scheduled show in the central French city.

However the comedian was defiant, calling on his supporters in a video to buy DVDs of his show "in massive numbers".

"The more of you there is, the more I can continue this fight," he said, adding that French Interior Minister Manuel "Valls has declared war against me".

Preview performances of his "The Wall" tour in Paris included a sketch in which the comedian mimed urinating against a wall. He then reveals that it was the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Amid the legal tussles over the show, Dieudonne announced in the same video that he has come up with a new performance called "Asu Zoa" which would include "dance and music, mime and even some Tai-chi movements".

Dieudonne's supporters, and even some who reject his brand of humour but defend his right to express himself, have displayed concern over the clampdown, saying that is a troubling breach of freedom of speech.

But French government lawyers argue the fundamentally racist nature of the comedian's act means it cannot be afforded protection under France's constitutional provisions on freedom of speech.

Dieudonne has been fined several times for defamation, using insulting language, hate speech and racial discrimination.

But the 47-year-old comedian argues that the horrors of the Holocaust are given too much focus to the exclusion of other crimes, like slavery and racism, and says his so-called "quenelle" gesture merely represents his anti-establishment views.

He has directed volleys of abuse at prominent French Jewish performers, rounding off one rant about radio presenter Patrick Cohen with the observation: "Gas chambers ... a shame." Dieudonne has also been slammed for his trademark "quenelle" stiff-arm gesture, which has been described as a disguised Nazi salute.

The gesture, which Dieudonne insists is purely an "up yours" to the French establishment, has taken on a life of its own.

Some people have been caught on camera doing the quenelle at Auschwitz or outside synagogues in France.

Now 47, the comedian started his career as part of a double act with a Jewish childhood friend, Elie Semoun.

But he veered towards anti-Semitism and the change burst into the open in 2003, when he concluded a televised sketch for which he had dressed up as an extremist Jew with a Nazi salute.