Moroccan 'hate speech' imam to be expelled from Belgium if presence confirmed

A French judge has issued a European arrest warrant for Hassan Iquioussen

Police on a street where a house belonging to the family of Iman Hassan Iquioussen is located, in Lourches, northern France. AFP
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Belgium is ready to expel a Moroccan imam wanted by French police for hate speech, if he is found there, a Belgian Justice Ministry official told The National on Friday.

This came shortly after AFP reported that a French judge had issued a European arrest warrant for Hassan Iquioussen for evading a deportation order.

His lawyer described the warrant as having no legal basis because Mr Iquioussen has “left French territory”, as requested by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin in a deportation order he signed on July 28.

French police failed to locate Mr Iquioussen on Wednesday, after Mr Darmanin led a campaign to have him expelled to Morocco for anti-Semitic and misogynist statements.

Mr Iquioussen, who is reportedly close to the Muslim Brotherhood, was born in France, where he married a Moroccan woman and had five children who hold French citizenship.

He is a Moroccan citizen, and has stated that his father forced him to renounce his French nationality shortly before turning 18.

French police told media they believe Mr Iquioussen, who lived near the northern town of Lourches, close to the Belgian border, had fled to Belgium.

This fuelled criticism of Mr Darmanin and France’s security services for their inability to track him down.

Belgian authorities have not confirmed Mr Iquioussen's presence on their territory.

But a Justice Ministry official said: “Belgian intelligence and security services nevertheless leave nothing to chance and are in contact with French services”.

Should Mr Iquioussen’s presence in Belgium be verified, “the procedure regarding foreign hate preachers would be followed. This means that he would be expelled,” said the official.

The ministry did not specify to which country Mr Iquioussen would be expelled.

Mr Iquioussen was under France’s “fichier S” watch list since January, according to French media.

The list comprises more than 25,000 people who officials believe might pose a threat to national security. However, those of the list are not necessarily under constant surveillance.

“It is surprising that the central office of territorial intelligence did not better anticipate the preacher’s movements,” French newspaper Le Monde said on Friday.

Imam Hassan Iquioussen, left, who French authorities want expelled. AFP

Belgian politicians protested as early as last month against Mr Iquioussen possibly moving to their country, which has a sizeable Moroccan community

Belgium has had problems with Islamist extremists. The 2016 Brussels bombings — in which 35 people, including three bombers, were killed and 340 injured — were organised by a domestic terrorist cell.

The group was also involved in deadly attacks in Paris the previous year.

“The 2016 terrorist attacks in Belgium were humiliating for Belgium’s security forces,” French historian Pierre Vermeren, a Maghreb expert, told The National.

“The Belgians have an interest in finding Mr Iquioussen, if he’s indeed in Belgium.”

The trial for the 2016 attacks is scheduled to start in Belgium on September 12.

Updated: September 02, 2022, 3:50 PM