AFP

PARIS-Controversial French comic Dieudonne, branded a “pedlar of hate” by the government for sketches deemed to be anti-Semitic, hit headlines again Wednesday for allegedly assaulting a bailiff.

Dieudonne, who owes the state thousands of Euros in unpaid fines for a slew of offences including racial discrimination and hate speech, was questioned by police along with his girlfriend over the alleged attack, his lawyer told AFP Wednesday. Bailiffs turned up at the comedian’s home in central France on Monday night to demand payment of several fines, and tried to enter by climbing over a fence, lawyer Sanjay Mirabeau said.

“Dieudonne’s partner and their security staff asked them to leave,” he said. According to sources close to the investigation, one of the bailiffs says he was assaulted by Dieudonne, and targeted with rubber bullets. A search of the house later turned up a bullet-launching device, investigators said. The stand-up comic, whose full name is Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, went to the police station voluntarily and was questioned for several hours, from just before midnight until dawn according to Mirabeau. His girlfriend Noemie Montagne was also grilled. The couple also filed their own complaint accusing the bailiff of breaking into their home, the lawyer said.

“Dieudonne wants to be left alone or at least to be treated in a normal manner, that is to say for the bailiifs to turn up at his house during regular hours,” Mirabeau said. Dieudonne has been at the heart of a furore over sketches widely viewed as anti-Semitic that prompted local authorities to block shows in his nationwide “The Wall” tour at the request of Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

He has also made headlines internationally after footballer Nicolas Anelka performed the comic’s trademark salute, called the “quenelle”, during an English Premier League match. The stiff-arm gesture has been described as a disguised Nazi salute, with anti-Semitic connotations, but the comic says it is merely an “up yours” to the establishment. Anelka faces a lengthy ban after being charged by the Football association over the salute, which was made during a match last month. Anelka has until Thursday to respond to the charge and if found guilty faces a minimum five-game suspension, under new anti-discrimination measures introduced by the FA in May last year.

Dieudonne, 47, is the black son of a Cameroonian father and a white mother. He started his career as part of a double act with his childhood Jewish friend Elie Semoun and their sketches tackled issues like racism and slavery. But he veered towards anti-Semitism and the change burst into the open in 2003, when he concluded a televised sketch for which he had dressed up as an extremist Jew with a Nazi salute.