- POSTED: 09 Jan 2014 23:28
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Dieudonne, the controversial French comic who has been branded an anti-Semitic "pedlar of hate" by the government, on Thursday won the first round of a legal battle to be allowed to start a nationwide tour.
NANTES: Dieudonne, the controversial French comic who has been branded an anti-Semitic "pedlar of hate" by the government, on Thursday won the first round of a legal battle to be allowed to start a nationwide tour.
A judge in Nantes ordered local authorities to lift a ban that would have prevented Dieudonne, who has been repeatedly convicted under anti-racism legislation, from performing in front of more than 5,000 people in the western city's Zenith Theatre on Thursday evening.
The ruling represented a defeat for France's Socialist government, which this week issued instructions to local councils authorising them to ban the comedian's shows.
But the government refused to throw in the towel, launching an appeal to France's highest administrative court, the Council of State, which scheduled an emergency hearing for 5.00 pm (1600 GMT) to review the Nantes decision.
Lawyers for the government had argued that the fundamentally racist nature of the comedian's act meant it could not be afforded protection under France's powerful constitutional provisions on the freedom of speech.
But their arguments were rejected by Judge Jean-Francois Molla after a two-hour hearing.
"The essential aim of the show cannot be considered as being an attempt to violate human dignity," the judge said in a ruling that will have implications for other cities, including Tours and Bordeaux, which have announced bans on Dieudonne performing in their theatres.
The judge also rejected arguments that the Nantes performance should be banned on public order grounds.
He said there was no evidence that any protests could not be contained by the local police and that the risk involved "cannot justify as radical a measure as banning the show".
The comedian is due to take his one-man show on a nationwide tour, which is scheduled to run until June and will include dates in neighbouring Belgium and Switzerland.