French high court reinstates ban on Dieudonne show

(JTA) — France’s highest court reinstated a ban on a performance by the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala hours after a lower court overturned it.

The administrative court in Nantes on Thursday rejected an argument by a municipal administrator, Christian de Lavernée, that a performance by Dieudonne would create a disturbance to public order and “cause offense to basic human dignity,” Le Monde reported.

But later in the day, France’s highest court, the Council of State, reinstated the ban following an appeal by Interior Minister Manuel Valls, the BBC reported.

Valls had informed French mayors earlier this week that they had the authority to ban shows by Dieudonne, a comedian who has been convicted seven times for inciting racial hatred against Jews with jokes about the Holocaust, calls for the liberation of killers of Jews and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, among other actions.

The show, which was to take place Thursday night in the western French city, was scheduled to be the first performance in a nationwide tour by Dieudonne of his new routine, “The Wall.”

Dieudonne had already arrived at the theater in Nantes Thursday evening when the high court ruling was issued. Fans who had gathered for the show were held back by police, according to the BBC. Five thousand tickets were sold for the show.

Dieudonne was also scheduled to appear Jan. 26 in Bordeaux, one of several French cities that have banned his show at Valls’ encouragement.

The ruling came amid criticism that Valls’ attempts to ban Dieudonne were too restrictive of freedom of expression.

Jack Lang, a Jewish former cabinet minister and head of the Paris-based Arab World Institute, said Tuesday during a television interview that he was “convinced that [Valls’] circular does not conform to French law.”

Lang added: “Freedom of expression is the governing principle when the state places such rigorous restrictions and there need to be very strong reasons for doing so.”

But European Jewish leaders lauded the move. In a statement Thursday, European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor called the high court decision “a triumph for the values of democracy and for the French Republic.”

 

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