Bob Dylan charged in France with incitement to hatred after Croat comment
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Bob Dylan has been charged in France with incitement to hatred, after he was quoted comparing Croats with Nazis in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, a judicial source said on Monday.
The world-famous American singer was questioned and charged last month while on a visit to Paris during which he gave several concerts and was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, one of France's top honours, the source said.
The charge against him centres on a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, during which he compared the relationship between Croats and Serbs to that of the Nazis and the Jews.
"This country is just too fucked up about colour.... People at each other's throats just because they are of a different colour," Dylan told Rolling Stone, discussing race relations in the United States.
"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.
"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."
The charge came after the Council of Croats in France (CRICCF) filed a complaint about the comments.
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".
The 72-year-old music legend is well loved in France.
He picked up the Legion d'Honneur on the recommendation of Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti who suggested that "the man [Barack] Obama himself calls the greatest American musician in history" should be decorated.
The award can be granted to any foreigner seen as having served France's interests or upheld its values.
A representative of Dylan's label said he was not aware of the proceedings against the star, while the CRICCF refused immediate comment.
Croatia and Serbia fought after the breakup of Yugoslavia in a 1991-1995 war that left around 20,000 people dead.
Croatians are highly sensitive to being mentioned in a Nazi-related context.
Their previous attempts at statehood came during World War II with the so-called Independent State of Croatia.
The Nazi-allied Ustasha regime killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians in their death camps.
The most notorious was Jasenovac, also known as Croatia's Auschwitz.
To this day, the number of people killed in Jasenovac, mostly Serbs, is contentious.
Estimates vary from 80,000 according to the Croatian government to 700,000 according to Serbian figures.
Many Croatians fought in the partisan movement, whose leader was Croatian-born former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito.
Since Croatia declared independence in 1991, some groups have attempted to rehabilitate aspects of the Ustasha regime. Its supporters are sometimes seen in football stadiums giving the Nazi salute.
Last month FIFA launched a probe against international defender Josip Simunic for appearing to lead fans into Ustasha-era chants after his team qualified for the World Cup.
Dylan, who played back-to-back concerts in Serbia and Croatia in 2010, rose to prominence in the 1960s partly for his support of the US civil rights movement.
US President Barack Obama last year awarded Dylan America's highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and said: "There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music."