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French comic happy to be free of charges after bin Laden jibe

Saturday, 12-Jul-2003 4:40PM PDT
Story from AFP
Copyright 2003 by Agence France-Presse (via ClariNet)

MONTREAL, July 12 (AFP) - The French comic known as 'Dieudonne' said on a trip to Canada Saturday he's pleased to have been cleared of charges by the French authorities after saying Osama bin Laden inspired respect and had more charisma than US President George Bush.

"I was very satisfied of course, but I did nothing that I could be punished for and I would be willing to repeat it," Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala told AFP.

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The entertainer said he was "happy to see that things have now returned to normal in France" following his controversial comments.

Dieudonne had faced charges following a 2002 interview he gave to French magazine, L'Echo des Savanes, in which he said bin Laden had changed the way force could be used in the world, and that "he is alone against the biggest power in the world, so naturally he inspires respect."

Paris prosecutors had demanded an apology from the comic, tying his remarks to the events of September 11, 2001, and started legal proceedings against him, saying he was trying to justify terrorism.

But a Paris criminal court ruled Friday that Dieudonne's comments were not directed at the events of September 11, but rather were "reflections on the state of international relations."

"I condemn the events, I condemn the violent action and I also understand that the remarks may have given offence," the comic said after being cleared.

"Osama bin Laden, as I said a year ago, is not the at the center of an axis of evil as has been depicted, the axis of evil is certainly human, but I believe today that it's closer to the extreme American right-wing, of the Ku Klux Klan, of (US President) Mr. George Bush, it's racist, xenophobic and facist," he said.

According to Dieudonne, such opinions were not permissable following the events of September 11, but he said it's now in the public good to talk so freely.