02:26 - Source: CNN
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French comedian Dieudonne sentenced to two months jail in Belgium for hate speech

Charges stem from comments he made during a concert in Liege in 2012

Comic has been banned from the UK and sentenced in France for "condoning terror"

CNN —  

Controversial French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala has been sentenced to two months in prison by a Belgian court for “inciting hatred” during a performance in the country.

The comic and political activist, who goes by his first name, was also fined 9,000 euros ($9,555) by the court in the eastern city of Liege for his comments during a show in the city in 2012.

A spokeswoman for the Liege prosecutor’s office told CNN the comic was charged due to “homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic” comments made during the performance.

They were also “regarded as furthering National Socialist ideology,” an offense under Belgian law, she said.

The comedian, who was not in court to hear the sentence, has the right to appeal.

Eric Lemmens, a lawyer for Belgium’s Jewish organizations, welcomed the sentence.

“We are very satisfied with this judgment,” he told CNN.

He praised the judgment’s finding that a conviction was necessary in the face of such repeated offending, or social harmony would suffer.

Anti-Semitic or anti-establishment?

The 49-year-old comic has repeatedly denied he is anti-Semitic, but has been fined numerous times in France for anti-Semitic comments.

The French government said last year that it wanted to ban his live performances, while the British government banned him from the UK, amid a storm over a hand gesture popularized by the comic.

Critics hold that the “quenelle” – which involves pointing the right arm straight down and touching it with the left hand – is a modified Nazi salute; Dieudonne counters that it is anti-establishment, but not anti-Semitic.

French soccer star Nicolas Anelka, a friend of Dieudonne’s, was banned for five matches and fined 80,000 pounds ($130,000) after making the gesture as part of a goal-scoring celebration in a Premier League match in 2013. He subsequently quit his club over the punishment.

In March, Dieudonne was given two month suspended sentence by a French court for “condoning terrorism” over comments that suggested he sympathized with the attackers in January’s Charlie Hebdo attacks.

The comedian had written a since-deleted post stating “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” – combining the surname of one of the terrorists with the popular slogan expressing solidarity with victims.

CNN’s Tim Hume reported and wrote from London, and Pierre-Eliott Buet reported from Paris.