Europe issues arrest warrant for Moroccan imam facing deportation

AFP - FRANCOIS LO PRESTI

A European arrest warrant has been issued for French-born Moroccan imam Hassan Iquioussen, who has been on the run since Tuesday when French authorities approved his deportation. The preacher has been accused of hate speech and anti-Semitism.

The Muslim preacher, regularly presented as an imam, has been missing since the Council of State, France's highest court, gave the green light for his expulsion to Morocco.

He is likely to have taken refuge in Belgium, according to the prefect of the Hauts-de-France region, Georges-François Leclerc.

Iquioussen stands accused of "a proselytising speech interspersed with remarks inciting hatred and discrimination and carrying a vision of Islam contrary to the values ​​of Republic", according to the expulsion document sent by the Interior Ministry on 29 July.

Acts of provocation

The council said his "anti-Semitic speech" and his "systematic speech on the inferiority of women" constituted "acts of provocation (...) to hatred".

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the preacher, had been on the "S" file (for state security) by the DGSI "for 18 months" prior to the deportation order.

The 58-year-old's lawyers had in July successfully applied to the Paris court to suspend the order, saying it would create "disproportionate harm" to his private and family life.

But this was effectively overturned with Tuesday's decision.

Born in France but of Moroccan nationality, Iquioussen has five children and 15 grandchildren, all French.

Nationality request refused

When he came of age, he decided not to opt for French nationality and to keep only his Moroccan nationality, even if "he only knows his so-called country of origin through short vacations", explained his lawyer, Lucie Simon.

Iquioussen claims to have tried twice to recover his French nationality without success since he turned 18 years old.

He says his second request was refused in 1999 because of his "very strong ties" with the Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF), which has since become Muslims of France (MF).

In a 29 July video, viewed 228,000 times on his YouTube channel, Iquioussen claims to be "French in heart and soul, in thought and in [his] culture".

It is thanks to the famous online platform that he has built his reputation over the years: no less than 178,000 subscribers (for 33 million views) follow his courses and sermons on Islam in everyday life.

Legal complications

On 1 August, Morocco had issued a "consular pass" to allow his expulsion by France. But a source familiar with the matter said that pass had been suspended.

This decision would be justified by the "unilateral" nature of the expulsion decision and the absence of "consultation" the day after the decision of the Council of State, according to this source.

"How can we recognise the nationality of one of its nationals one day and no longer recognize it the next day?", the source said, pointing out that "this document has no other function than to formalise Morocco's recognition of Mr. Iquioussen's nationality".

Darmanin told France 5 television on Wednesday that he thought it most likely that Iquioussen was now "in Belgium".

He added that he would give "information" about the preacher to his Belgian counterpart so that he could "not come (back) to France".

However, Christine-Laura Kouassi, spokesperson for the Belgian Ministry of Justice, told the press that Iquioussen was "not included in the database of the Belgian police as a wanted person".

"This gentleman is therefore not the subject of a Belgian judicial or administrative search notice."

If Iquioussen returned to France, Darmanin warned that he would be "arrested and placed in an administrative detention centre".