French prosecutors have launched a probe into a controversial comic widely accused of anti-Semitism for mocking the decapitation of American journalist James Foley in a video.
Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, whose trademark "quenelle" salute — a stiff-arm gesture described by critics as a disguised Nazi salute — is no stranger to controversy and has been fined several times in France over anti-Semitic
In a recent video, he lampoons the Western indignation over the chilling beheading of Foley by Islamic State militants last month as "progress" and ridicules the outrage of global leaders including US President Barack Obama,
French President Francois Hollande and UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
Dieudonne says the 2011 execution of Libyan dictator Moamer Gaddafi who was "killed like a dog" and the hanging of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2006 did not spark the same anger as Foley's death.
"The Rothschild mafia says no, that's alright, but James Foley is too much," Dieudonne says, in an apparent reference to the prominent Jewish banking family but also his euphemism for Western governments.
A judicial source said the Paris prosecutor's office had opened an investigation on Wednesday into Dieudonne for condoning terrorism.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Friday said he had given "strict instructions" to officials to suppress any form of anti-Semitism and racism and slammed "pathetic comics," without naming Dieudonne.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls had earlier branded Dieudonne as a "peddler of hatred".
Dieudonne has been repeatedly fined for hate speech and several French towns have banned his shows as a threat to public order. Although he says he is not anti-Semitic, public authorities say he owes more than €65,000 ($84,000) in fines related to past convictions related to anti-Semitic comments.
Dieudonne is due to appear in a Paris appeals court in November for making an Internet appeal for donations to help pay his fines, which is forbidden under French law.
He is also being pursued for faking bankruptcy and for money laundering.
The government has expressed concern over increasing anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews in recent years and had said it will not allows tensions linked to Middle East spill over to its territory. France is home to western Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish populations.
Earlier Friday, a leading Jewish body said for the first time, more Jews left France than any other country, a fact the group blamed in part on rising anti-Semitism.