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Africa

Comedian's lawyers fight French ban on 'anti-Semitic' shows

media French Interior Minister Manuel Valls (R) has called Dieudonné MBala Mbala a small businessman of anti-Semitism AFP

French comedian Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala has launched legal challenges against attempts to ban his one-man show in several French cities following a circular from Interior Minister Manuel Valls accusing him of using them to preach anti-Semitism.

Dieudonné's lawyers on Wednesday appealed to a court in Pau, south-west France, to overrule the cancellation of an appearance on 14 March in the seaside resort of Biarritz.

The town's mayor, Didier Borotra, announced on New Year's Eve that the show could not go ahead because of "urgent work" needed on the theatre where the comedian was due to appear, an argument one of the comedian's lawyers, Jacques Verdier, described as a "pretext".

The lawyers have also appealed to court in Nantes to reverse a ban on the first show in Dieudonné's tour of France due to take place in the western French city on Thursday.

The court is to sit on Thursday morning.

Officials in Nantes, Bordeaux, Tours and Orleans banned appearances following Valls's circular calling on them to do so on the grounds that the comedian breaks the law on holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred.

Denis Turmel, the manager of the Zénith theatre where the comic was due to appear, said Wednesday that an extra 300 tickets had been sold since Valls's circular, boosting the audience to 5,596.

The venue's website announced that the show was cancelled on Wednesday and Turmel said that he had told the producers that their staff and lorries could not come onto the premises on Thursday morning while the ban remained in force.

Meanwhile, the finance ministry is looking into suspicions that Dieudonné has shifted money abroad to avoid paying the fines imposed on him by French courts in several cases related to anti-Semitism.

The comic, who owes 65,290 euros in unpaid fines, is believed to have shifted 415,000 euros to Cemeroon, his father's country of origin, since 2009 and could be charged with tax evasion, money-laundering and organising his own bankruptcy.

The French Muslim organisation, CFCM, on Wednesday appealed to young Muslims not to fall into "traps set by irresponsible people of all kinds" and condemned "all provocations disguised as humour and derision".

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