France allows deported imam back

28th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 28 (AFP) - The French government said Wednesday it would allow an Islamic imam it deported last week back into the country, but warned he faced legal action after making comments endorsing wife-beating.

PARIS, April 28 (AFP) - The French government said Wednesday it would allow an Islamic imam it deported last week back into the country, but warned he faced legal action after making comments endorsing wife-beating.

The decision to permit the return of Abdelkader Bouziane, a 52-year-old Algerian who preached at a mosque in the western city of Lyon, followed a ruling by an administrative tribunal that the deportation was illegal.

Government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope said France would not oppose Bouziane's return, but added the imam "will have to answer to French justice for his acts and statements" if he does come back from Algeria, where he was sent to a week ago.

Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said Tuesday that intelligence surveillance of Bouziane, who had lived in France for 24 years, showed he "belonged to a movement whose extremist elements justified terrorism."

He said comments Bouziane made to the April issue of Lyon Mag, a local magazine, in which he endorsed wife-beating and declared he was polygamous confirmed the government's decision to go ahead with a February deportation order based on the concern that the imam was a threat to public order.

Bouziane, who adheres to a version of Islam preaching a literal interpretation of the Koran, has already applied for a visa in Algiers, where he was held by Algerian police after arriving, the newspaper Le Parisien reported.

The case has proved an embarrassment to the government, which has deported several other imams in the past months but mainly because they urged a jihad, or holy war, against the West.

An administrative tribunal that reviewed the case after Bouziane's forced departure ruled that the government had acted illegally by not formally charging the imam with any crime and not giving him an opportunity to defend himself.

A second review upheld that verdict, despite the interior ministry supplying newly unclassified intelligence reports purporting to depict Bouziane as a dangerous radical.

De Villepin on Tuesday said he wanted French law toughened to give his ministry more powers to detain suspected extremists because of Europe's changed security environment after the May 11 train bombings in Madrid.

Those attacks, which killed 191 people, have been attributed to Islamic radicals, many of them Moroccans.

The sudden reversal of the French government's determination to keep Bouziane out of the country apparently obviates a legal appeal the interior ministry had been preparing.

If the appeal had also gone against the government, it may have tied the ministry's hands when it came to deporting other imams in France.

The country counts around five million Muslims in its population of 60 million -- the biggest Muslim community in Europe.

© AFP

                                           Subject: French news

 

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