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French comedian faces eighth trial for gas chamber comment

(JTA) — A French comedian who implied that a Jewish journalist belonged in a gas chamber may be tried for racial incitement for the eighth time.

Paris prosecutors on Monday ordered the opening of a criminal investigation against Dieudonne M’bala M’bala on suspicion of incitement to racial hatred, according to the news site 20minutes.fr. They were reacting to the airing of a television show about Dieudonne earlier this month on France 2, in which he said: “When I hear about Patrick Cohen, I say to myself: You see, the gas chambers … It’s a shame.”

Cohen, a veteran journalist for France Inter, earlier this year criticized France 2 for giving airtime to people with what he termed “sick minds.” He named Dieudonne along with Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss professor who is banned from entering the United States for his support for Palestinian terrorist groups; Holocaust denier Alain Soral; and Marc-Edouard Nabe, an anti-Zionist writer who has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Last month, Dieudonne, a Frenchman of Cameroonian origins, was convicted of racial incitement against Jews in another of his shows. It was his seventh conviction for the same offense, according to LICRA, the France-based International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism.

Last week, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said that his ministry was considering banning public performances by Dieudonne because he seemed undeterred by the convictions, which came with tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

In recent months, French media have devoted increasing coverage to the spreading of Dieudonne’s ideas in French society, most notably with the increasingly popular “quenelle” gesture, a quasi-Nazi salute designed to circumvent France’s laws against displaying Nazi symbols.

Dieudonne also coined the phrase “shoananas” — a mashup of the Hebrew word for Holocaust and the French word for pineapple, which is seen as a way of suggesting the Holocaust is a myth without violating French laws against genocide denial.

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