A French comedian charged with condoning terrorism is set to go on trial over a Facebook comment, in which he is accused of expressing support for Ahmedy Coulibaly, a gunman who killed four hostages and a policewoman in January.
Dieudonne Mbala told a Paris court on Wednesday that he condemned last month's deadly Paris attacks "without any ambiguity" as he stood trial.
"Of course I condemn the attacks without any restraint and without any ambiguity," Dieudonne said.
The controversial comedian angered French authorities after posting a statement online saying "Je Suis Charlie Coulibaly" (I am Charlie Coulibaly), after thousands marched in the French capital with the slogan "Je Suis Charlie" in solidarity with the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Two gunmen stormed through Charlie Hebdo's office, killing 11 people on January 7, a day before Coulibaly attacked a kosher shop killing four hostages.
Dieudonne was arrested on January 14.
After France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on authorities to investigate Dieudonne's remarks, the comedian wrote a response on his Facebook page saying that he was being treated as a public enemy when all he wanted to do was make a joke.
Play on words
Dieudonne's "I am Charlie Coulibaly" remark was meant to be a play on words of the popular "I am Charlie Hebdo" slogan used to show support to the newspaper and freedom of speech in the wake of the attack.
But now many view his indictment as a violation of freedom of speech itself and an example of the government's double standard.
Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Paris, said: "The case has raised new questions about French values of freedom, equality and fraternity."
If found guilty of condoning terrorism, he could face up to seven years in prison.
Dieudonne, who is already facing a string of separate charges in Paris, had previously been convicted numerous times for inciting anti-semitism.
"He is currently involved in several trials here, on charges ranging from slander, to incitement to racial hatred, to condoning terrorism. In all the cases, he denies the charges," Al Jazeera's correspondent said.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies