The French government is looking for ways to bar a prominent comedian from fielding candidates for European Parliamentary elections because of his anti-Semitic proposals. The comedian is on trial on charges of inciting hatred against Jews.
French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala has long been a controversial figure. He is a longtime friend of far-right French politician Jean Marie Le Pen. And he has long been known for his anti-Semitic remarks as an entertainer. Those remarks have landed him in court on charges of inciting hatred.
But now he is taking on the political arena as his leftist party hopes to field candidates for June elections to the European Parliament.
That does not please the French government. A senior member of the Elysee Presidential Palace has told the news media the government is studying ways to legally prevent Dieudonne from running in the elections.
But Dieudonne denies he is anti-Semitic.
In an interview on Europe 1 Radio, the French comic argued France's conservative government is seeking to politicize the issue because it feared a challenge from his leftist party during the European elections. He said he was not anti-Semitic, claiming that Jews were part of his movement. Rather, he said, he is fighting against a powerful Zionist lobby.
Anti-Semitism strikes a particularly sensitive chord here. France is home to western Europe's largest Jewish community, and its largest Muslim one. Anti-Semitism attacks soared a few years ago, prompting the French government to increase policing around synagogues and other Jewish institutions.
And another high profile trial opened last week over the torture and murder of a young Jewish man, Ilan Halimi, in 2006.
Many pundits doubt Dieudonne will be barred from running in the elections, but it is up to the French judiciary to make that decision.