Belgium throws out French imam arrest warrant

Some rights groups say the Hassan Iquioussen case is part of wider crackdown on France's Muslim minority

Belgium has confirmed imam Hassan Iquioussen will not be extradited to France. AFP
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An arrest warrant for French-Moroccan imam Hassan Iquioussen, who was accused of making hateful remarks, has been thrown out by a Belgian court.

The appeals court ruled the offences were not criminal under Belgian law and dismissed the European arrest warrant.

France's Ministry of the Interior had wanted to deport Mr Iquioussen to Morocco for allegedly “inciting hate, discrimination and violence”, notably against women and the Jewish community.

The court in Mons upheld a lower-court ruling dismissing the European arrest warrant issued for Mr Iquioussen.

“The facts on which this arrest warrant is based do not constitute an offence under Belgian law,” a representative for the Mons appeal court said. “It is not valid, so we will not execute it.”

Mr Iquioussen's lawyers celebrated Tuesday's ruling.

“There is no offence in Belgium and we consider there is none in France either,” lawyer Lucie Simon said.

Some rights groups say the case is part of a wider crackdown on France's Muslim minority.

The imam successfully challenged his initial deportation order to Morocco, when a Paris administrative court ruled this would be “a serious and manifestly disproportionate interference with his right to lead a normal private and family life”.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin challenged the ruling and in August in the Council of State — which acts as the supreme court for administrative justice in France — ruled that the deportation order was justified.

Mr Iquioussen left for Belgium after that decision.

France's Human Rights League, a non-governmental organisation, said the Council of State had been politically influenced.

France's interior ministry said the Council of State had ruled based on the law and declined to comment on the Belgian appeal court's ruling.

While he prevailed in Belgium court, the Belgian ruling will not impact French law.

Four immigration lawyers and four administrative judges expressed concern that the Council of State's decision might create a legal precedent that reduces the rights of immigrants in France.

One of those judges, Maguy Fullana, who is also a representative for an administrative magistrates' union, said that the Council of State's ruling could influence how judges balance public order disruption with the right to a private life.

“If there are other cases of imam deportation, it will be difficult to ignore the Council of State ruling,” she said.

Updated: November 15, 2022, 11:28 PM