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Europe issues arrest warrant for Moroccan imam facing deportation

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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 to his expulsion to Morocco.

He probably took refuge in Belgium, according to the prefect of the Hauts-de-France region, Georges-François Leclerc.

Iquioussen is accused of “a discourse of proselytism interspersed with remarks inciting hatred and discrimination and carrying a vision of Islam contrary to the values ​​of the Republic”, according to the expulsion document transmitted by the Ministry of Interior on July 29.

Acts of provocation

The council considered that his “anti-Semitic speech” and his “systematic speech on the inferiority of women” constituted “acts of provocation (…) to hatred”.

The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, clarified that the preacher had been on file “S” (for state security) by the DGSI “for 18 months” before the expulsion order.

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

But that was effectively overturned with Tuesday’s ruling.

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

Application for nationality refused

At his majority, 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 holidays”, explained his lawyer, Lucie Simon.

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

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

In a July 29 video, viewed 228,000 times on his YouTube channel, Iquioussen claims to be “French in heart and soul, in thought and [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 lessons and preach on Islam on a daily basis.

Legal complications

On August 1, Morocco had issued a “consular pass” to allow his expulsion by France. But a source familiar with the matter said the 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 one recognize the nationality of one of its nationals one day and no longer recognize it the next day?”, declared the source, stressing that “this document has no other function than to formalize the recognition by Morocco of the nationality of Mr. Iquioussen”.

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

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

However, Christine-Laura Kouassi, spokesperson for the Belgian justice ministry, told the press that Iquioussen was “not listed in the Belgian police database as a wanted person”.

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

If Iquioussen returns to France, Darmanin warns that he will be “arrested and placed in an administrative detention center”.