Comedian Dieudonne, whose trademark gesture, the quenelle, has drawn severe criticism for being anti-Jewish, will pay fines incurred for defamation and hate speech, the French interior minister, Manuel Valls, has vowed.
Valls, speaking on a radio show on Friday, said he would ensure that Dieudonne, 47, would have to pay the $88,500 he had run up in fines, and would try to legally block performances by a man he branded a “little trader of hate”.
Since 2000, Dieudonne has been fined seven times for defamation, using insulting language, hate speech and racial discrimination.
Dieudonne’s inverted down-arm salute made headlines again this week after his friend, French football striker Nicolas Anelka, used it to celebrate a goal in England. The on-field sign sparked a media storm and Anelka agreed not to repeat it.
I think 2014 will be the year of the quenelle
The comic insists the gesture is not anti-Jewish and merely reflects his anti-establishment views.
“I think 2014 will be the year of the quenelle,” Dieudonne said in a video posted this week on YouTube. In that video, Dieudonne also denied he is anti-Jewish.
“There’s a misunderstanding. I don’t say I won’t be one day. I leave that possibility open.’
Valls said Dieudonne would be “forced to pay” and that “nobody is above the law”.
Veteran Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld have called on people to protest against Dieudonne.
“It is legitimate and normal when someone makes anti-Semitic speeches and says that not enough Jews were gassed in the gas chambers, that people rise up to protest,” Klarsfeld told AFP news agency.
“People who go to see Dieudonne go there to hear Jew-bashing,” said Klarsfeld.
The controversy his tour is provoking is a far cry from the comedian’s early career when he teamed up with Jewish comic Elie Semoun in sketches that tackled racism and slavery.