Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, the French comedian known for stirring up controversy with his race- and religious-focused jokes, was found guilty Wednesday by a Paris court for a Facebook status he wrote shortly after the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish kosher deli shootings in January.
The social media post included the line, "I feel like Charlie Coulibaly," which synthesized the name of the newspaper where four cartoonists were killed and the man responsible for killing a police officer and four Jews two days later, Amedy Coulibaly. The play on words was found to have been in support of the terrorist attacks.
Reuters reported that following its decision, the court wrote, "The feeling of hostility towards the Jewish community that Dieudonne kept up in front of a public attracted by his charisma increases his responsibility."
The comic received a suspended sentence of two months in prison, escaping a much harsher potential penalty of up to seven years in jail and a fine of more than $100,000.
Dieudonné M'bala M'bala made his initial court appearance in Paris on Wednesday, Feb. 4, when he was charged with condoning the deadly terrorist attacks that rocked Paris the month before.
Dieudonné, as he is known in France, was arrested on Jan. 14 after he posted a message on Facebook which read, in part, "I feel like Charlie Coulibaly" — a reference to the targeted satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, as well as Amedy Coulibaly, who carried out attacks against a lone policewoman and a kosher supermarket.
He said he had felt excluded from the historic anti-terror march in Paris on Jan. 11, and that he received no response from Interior Ministry officials after his lawyers sought permission for the comedian to participate in the march. He said he ultimately participated in a march in Eure-et-Loir, the French region he calls home.
Prosecutors are seeking to impose a penalty of more than $34,000 against the comedian, who could face jail time if he is convicted and doesn't pay the fine. They called on the court to consider the context in which the comments were made, as well as Dieudonné's past provocative comments, Le Monde reported.
The comedian, who has previously been convicted nine times of promoting racial hatred in France, has a long history of controversial behavior that many have labeled anti-Semitic.
His arrest and prosecution has raised questions of freedom of speech in France, where many government officials vowed to protect the freedom of expression of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and its slain employees.
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.
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