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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

Charged Dylan told to apologise over alleged racist comments

AFP  Paris, December 03, 2013
First Published: 17:26 IST(3/12/2013) | Last Updated: 17:30 IST(3/12/2013)

Bob Dylan is being asked to apologise for remarks he made in an interview that have ran afoul of French anti-racism laws.

The legendary American singer has been charged with inciting hatred by Paris prosecutors after comments made to Rolling Stone magazine last year sparked a complaint from the Council of Croats in France (CRICCF).

"If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood," Dylan was quoted as saying in the context of an answer about race relations in the United States.

Dylan, 72, was informed of the charges against him last month, while he was in Paris for three concerts -- a visit during which the French government also awarded him its prestigious Legion d'Honneur decoration.

Although the CRICCF's formal complaint triggered automatic charges under French law, the 'mise en examen' or judicial probe, does not necessarily mean the matter will end up in court. It establishes a prima facie case that an investigating magistrate is required to look into, and the charges can either be pursued or dismissed.

The CRICCF said Tuesday said it was not looking for a conviction of the high-profile singer, and would regard a public apology as more valuable.

"We hope he will apologise and we are ready to accept an apology," Ivan Jurasinovic, the CRICCF's lawyer, said.

"A conviction will not repair the damage as much as an apology will."

Dylan has not commented on the charges and a representative of his label claimed to be unaware of the proceedings against the star.

French media law bars incitement to "discrimination, hatred or violence with regard to a person or group of people on the grounds of their origin or of their membership or non-membership of an ethnic group, a nation, a race, or a religion".

In his Rolling Stone interview, Dylan -- whose songs have often been used as anthems by leftwing and civil rights movements -- described race relations in the United States as fraught.

"This country is just too fucked up about colour.... People at each other's throats just because they are of a different colour," he was quoted as saying.
"Blacks know that some whites didn't want to give up slavery -- that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can't pretend they don't know that.

He then made the comment that included the reference to Serbs and "Croatian blood".

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