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Nantes ban on controversial comic Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala lifted by French court in time for show

The French government tried to ban the comic on the grounds that he is a threat to public order

A French court has lifted a ban stopping controversial comedian Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala from performing on Thursday night, calling it an attack on freedom of expression.

The country’s government had ordered theatres across France to cancel Dieudonné’s shows on the grounds that he is a threat to public order.

Nantes had imposed the ban on the comic who has been convicted of inciting racial hatred and anti-Semitism under France’s hate speech laws over six times. 

Dieudonné rejected the claims and asked the court to rule on whether he could go ahead with his 5000-seat show in western France.

Hours before the show was due to begin, the administrative court cited the comic’s previous performances of the show in Paris that did not endanger public order. Planned demonstrations, which can be contained by normal means, do not justify pulling the curtains on the show, the court said.

His lawyer Jacques Verdier, celebrated and said “The show will go on tonight,” with the Nantes performance kicking off the comic’s national “Le Mur” (“The Wall”) tour.

At least eight of the almost 30 cities where he plans to tour have banned the performance, and Dieudonne has said he will fight them one by one.

The Interior Minister Manuel Valls has said he will appeal the ruling to the Council of State, France’s highest administrative authority, to combat what he calls the “mechanics of hate.”

“People who attend these shows know perfectly they are political gatherings aimed at peddling hate, anti-Semitism and hate of the Jews,” Mrl Valls said on Tuesday after ordering the ban.

The news comes after Mr Valls announced his determination in early January to make Dieudonné pay the racism fines he owes.

The 47-year-old began his career as an anti-racism activist, but this reputation has been marred by accusations that he is an anti-Semite.

He caused controversy for inventing the “quenelle” in 2004, which critics say is an inverted Nazi salute, but he claims is an anti-establishment gesture.

La quenelle or “the meat ball” consists of pointing towards the ground with a flattened hand while folding the other arm across your chest.

In late December, the debate around the quenelle spread to the UK after West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka made the gesture. Anelka said he had made the “dedication to his friend”  Deiudonne and denied any racist intent. He was later defended by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who said that many people in France aren’t aware of what it means and that only Anelka could be sure of his intentions.