French Comic Arrested for 'Defending' Paris Terrorist

Dieudonne held for controversial Facebook post: cops
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2015 2:39 PM CST
French Comic Arrested for 'Defending' Paris Terrorist
In this Jan. 11, 2014, file photo, French comic Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala speaks to the media during a press conference in a theater in Paris.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler, file)

(Newser) – Dieudonne M'bala M'bala has been accused of hate speech by his government before. Now the controversial French comedian has been arrested for "defending terrorism" after a Facebook post in which he appeared to be sympathizing with the man who killed four people in a kosher supermarket and a policewoman in Paris last week, Time reports. Dieudonne (known in France by his first name) was taken into police custody today in the wake of the now-deleted post he wrote after attending Sunday's unity and free-speech rally in Paris. It read, "Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly," making reference to both killer Amedy Coulibaly and the "Je Suis Charlie" ("I Am Charlie") phrase of support for Charlie Hebdo that's been circulating worldwide, the Guardian reports.

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Dieudonne is no stranger to French authorities. He's been called anti-Semitic for popularizing a Nazi-like salute, joking about the Holocaust, and poking fun of French-Jewish leaders, the Washington Post reported last year. But his arrest brings up an inevitable debate: how a country that's taken to the streets to advocate for free speech may be trying to keep a lid on his. France doesn't enjoy the same free-speech liberties that the US does—denying the Holocaust is illegal, for example, and more than 50 hate-speech investigations have opened since the attacks—but Dieudonne's lawyer tells Time that this arrest was "totally exaggerated and [disproportionate]." The comic himself said, as per the Atlantic: "Whenever I express myself some people will not even try to understand me, they will not listen. ... I am looked upon as if I were Amedy Coulibaly, when I am no different from Charlie." (Read more Paris stories.)

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