The French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala is standing trial for saying that a Jewish journalist should have died “in the gas chambers.”
The trial in criminal court begins Wednesday for Dieudonne, who has been convicted seven times for inciting racial hatred against Jews.
He was filmed with a hidden camera in 2013 making the comment about Patrick Cohen, according to The New York Times. The footage, which was broadcast on French television, led the French government to investigate Dieudonné and ban his show.
If Dieudonne is found guilty of violating France’s laws banning racist speech, he faces a fine of up to $45,000 and one year in prison. He has been charged almost 40 times under hate-speech laws.
Dieudonne stirred controversy recently by posting comments on social media sympathizing with Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four Jews at a Paris-area kosher supermarket in early January.
He was briefly arrested for posting a comment on Facebook about the January 9 attack in Paris. Riffing on the slogan “I am Charlie,” which commemorates the 12 victims of a Jan. 7 attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly by two of Coulibaly’s associates, Dieudonne wrote: “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.”
French prosecutors said he is suspected of encouraging terrorism.
Dieudonne originated the quenelle, which critics say is a modified Nazi salute. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called it an “a gesture of anti-Semitic hate” and has described Dieudonne as a “professional anti-Semite.”
Under Valls, Dieudonne was forced to cancel one tour and is facing criminal and financial charges, ranging from incitement to hatred to tax evasion and building violations.