10 Jan 2014

Top court halts comedian's show

7:40 pm on 10 January 2014

France's highest court has reinstated a ban on a show by controversial comic Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, just before the event was due to open.

Dieudonné M'bala M'bala in Paris in 2012.

Dieudonné M'bala M'bala in Paris in 2012. Photo: AFP

The comedian, who has convictions for anti-Semitic hate speech, had arrived at the theatre in Nantes where more than 5000 people were due to see the performance on Thursday, the first on a scheduled tour.

Police were deployed as a precaution outside the venue, where the audience greeted the verdict with boos, whistling and chants of Dieudonné's name.

Earlier, a judge in Nantes had said he did not regard the show, entitled The Wall, as having an attack on human dignity as its main object and had overturned the ban.

Minutes later, Interior Minister Manuel Valls appealed to the Council of State to intervene. The top court upheld the ban, despite a challenge by the comic's lawyers saying his freedom of expression had been breached.

French media who have sent reporters to previous performances of the The Wall say it contained a string of derogatory references to Jews.

The French government made a concerted effort to stop the tour after Dieudonné was recorded making remarks about Jewish journalist Patrick Cohen. He has also been accused of deriding Holocaust survivors and victims in his material.

President Francois Hollande had earlier urged French officials to enforce an order authorising the ban on the show.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was satisfied with the judgement.

"What's at stake is the struggle against the drift towards anti-Semitism in which Mr Dieudonné was engaged. Over the course of time each show was spiralling out of control. And in our society we can't accept the slightest complacency with regards to anti-Semitism. It's totally alien to our values and principles."

Police were stationed outside the Zenith theatre on Thursday.

Police were stationed outside the Zenith theatre on Thursday. Photo: AFP