One of France's most popular rappers was to appear in court yesterday charged with offending public decency with a song in which he referred to France as a "slut" and vowed to "piss" on Napoleon and Charles de Gaulle.
Monsieur R, whose real name is Richard Makela, could face three years in prison or a 75,000 euro (US$95,700) fine after a member of parliament (MP) from the ruling UMP party launched legal action against him over his album Politikment Incorrekt.
In the video for the song FranSSe, Makela, 30, appeared dressed as a gendarme with two naked women rubbing against the French flag as he rapped: "France is a bitch, don't forget to fuck her till she's exhausted/You have to treat her like a slut, man."
At another point in the song, he sang: "I piss on Napoleon and on General de Gaulle."
When Daniel Mach, MP for Pyrenees-Orientales, heard the album last year, he proposed a law making it a criminal offence to insult the dignity of France and the French state. In November, when riots broke out in France's run-down suburbs, another UMP deputy, Francois Grosdidier, won the support of 152 MPs and 49 senators who demanded that parliament act against Makela's lyrics. But by then Mach had taken a personal action against Makela for making and disseminating "violent and pornographic messages" to which minors could get access.
The case is the latest in a series of stand-offs between conservative MPs and rappers. In 2003, Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister and presidential hopeful, brought a criminal case against the rap band Sniper, saying their music was anti-semitic, racist and insulting.
In one song, La France, they called France a "bitch." The case was thrown out of court last year. The same lawyer who defended Sniper is acting for Makela.
Makela, who was born in Belgium and came to France aged 14, told Le Parisien he did not target any particular group but rapped against "the system."
"You can have a critical view of the French state without being anti-French or racist," he said.