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French comic Dieudonné handed jail sentence

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French comic Dieudonné handed jail sentence
French comedian Dieudonne, who was handed a suspended jail sentence this week. Photo: AFP
08:18 CET+01:00
A French court handed controversial French comedian Dieudonné a two-month suspended jail sentence on Wednesday for condoning terrorism after a comment suggesting he sympathised with one of the jihadists who attacked Paris.

The polemicist was arrested on January 14 after writing "I feel like Charlie Coulibaly" on Facebook, a mix of the slogan "Je suis Charlie" that became a global rallying cry against extremism and Amedy Coulibaly, one of the assailants who killed a policewoman and four Jews.

His arrest was one of dozens of cases opened for "condoning terrorism" or "making threats to carry out terrorist acts" after the attackers killed 17 people in the January 7-9 shooting spree that also targeted satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The comedian is a controversial figure who has often made headlines, most notably with his trademark "quenelle" hand gesture that looks like an inverted Nazi salute, but which he insists is merely anti-establishment.

But his arrest -- and that of other people, some of whom were sent straight to jail for one to four years -- raised questions about free speech in France.

The prosecutor had called for a fine of 30,000 euros ($31,000), which if he fails to pay up could turn into a prison sentence.

During the trial, prosecutor Annabelle Philippe said Dieudonne had presented "in a favourable light the acts committed by Amedy Coulibaly".

But Dieudonne said he "condemned the attacks without any restraint and without any ambiguity".

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