French police hunt for imam set to be deported for 'inciting hate'

Search for YouTube ideologue Hassan Iquioussen extends to Belgium after court approves deportation

Imam Hassan Iquioussen (left) in 2004, when he was president of the association managing the Escaudain Mosque in northern France. AFP
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French police were on Wednesday searching for a hate preacher who fled after the top administrative court gave the Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin the green light for his deportation to Morocco.

Officers believe that Hassan Iquioussen fled to Belgium after Mr Darmanin tweeted he would "be expelled from the national territory" in "a great victory for the republic".

The case came before France's highest court after Paris judges blocked the imam's deportation. The interior ministry ordered this in late July over "especially virulent anti-Semitic speech" and sermons calling for women's "submission" to men.

Iquioussen, 58, reaches tens of thousands of subscribers via YouTube and Facebook accounts from his home in northern France.

Police on a street in Lourches, northern France, at the site of a house belonging to the family of Iman Hassan Iquioussen. AFP

He was born in France but holds Moroccan citizenship.

His lawyers successfully applied to the Paris court for a block on the order, saying it would create "disproportionate harm" to his "private and family life".

An interior ministry lawyer last week told the Council of State that Iquioussen "has for years spread insidious ideas that are nothing less than incitement to hatred, to discrimination and to violence".

"His proselytising speech is interspersed with remarks inciting hatred and discrimination and carries a vision of Islam contrary to the values of the Republic,” it said.

The defendant's lawyer retorted that some of the remarks including anti-Semitic or misogynistic speech dated back more than 20 years, pointing out that he had never been prosecuted for his public statements.

"Yes, Mr Iquioussen is a conservative. He has made retrograde statements on women's place in society," Lucie Simon said. "But that does not constitute a serious threat to public order."

The interior ministry representative retorted that the imam's words "create fertile ground for separatism and even terrorism," insisting that he "remains an anti-Semite".

Mr Darmanin had warned that he would try to change the law if judges found Iquioussen could not be deported.

Updated: August 31, 2022, 2:09 PM