French Comedian Dieudonne Arrested After Facebook Post About Kosher Deli Gunman

Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala

He has been cited for hate speech several times, and his film 'The Anti-Semite' was pulled from the Cannes Film Market in 2012.

French comedian Dieudonne was taken into custody by French police on Wednesday following a Facebook remark seen as expressing support for terrorist Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a police officer and four hostages in a kosher grocery last week.

The news of his arrest was posted to his Facebook page by his lawyer David Stefano.

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The arrest follows a Facebook post on Sunday — just as millions gathered around the world to rally against terror — in which the comedian wrote “I am Charlie Coulibaly” in reference to the gunman’s last name. The publication resulted in an investigation by police for support of terrorism, and the Facebook post was deleted.

The comedian then published a letter addressed to French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on his website, Quenel Plus. The website and its logo is a play on the name of popular pay TV channel Canal Plus and a reference to Dieudonne's signature “quenelle” gesture, which is regarded as an inverted Nazi salute.

In the statement, Dieudonne argued that while the French government supports the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo and their right to free speech, it has unfairly targeted him. “Since the beginning of last year, I have been treated as public enemy number one, when all I try to do is make people laugh, and laugh about death, because death laughs at us all, as Charlie knows now, unfortunately," he said.

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He said the Facebook post was in reference to the way he has been perceived in the media. “I am looked upon as if I were Amedy Coulibaly, when I am no different from Charlie," Dieudonne wrote. He ended the letter with the line: “I offer peace.”

Dieudonne has been under fire in France and abroad over his statements for years. In September, prosecutors opened an investigation following the release of a video in which he joked about the beheading of journalist James Foley. He has also been fined several times for hate speech and denial of the Holocaust, which is a crime in France.

In November, he launched his own political party and has previously run for office as a member of the Anti-Zionist party. Last January, several shows across France were canceled in the wake of the popularization of the “quenelle,” a gesture he invented that is regarded as an upside down Nazi salute. He was then banned from entering the U.K.

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In 2012, his film The Anti-Semite was dropped from the Cannes film market after protests.