France expels 'radical' Tunisian imam - interior minister

  • World
  • Friday, 23 Feb 2024

PARIS (Reuters) - France has expelled a Tunisian Muslim cleric for "radicalism" and "unacceptable remarks", Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a statement on Twitter.

"The radical Imam Mahjoub Mahjoubi has just been expelled from the national territory, less than 12 hours after his arrest. We will not let people get away with anything," Darmanin said in a statement on X.

In an earlier statement, Darmanin said he had given instructions to issue a ministerial deportation order against "this radical 'imam' with unacceptable remarks". "Firmness is the rule," he added.

In a post that went viral on social media and was widely reported in French media, the imam referred to "the three-coloured flag" as "satanic".

Mahjoubi, who preached in the Ettaouba mosque of Bagnols-sur-Ceze, southern France, has denied any wrongdoing. He told French media that his comments had been taken out of context and that he had not meant to disrespect the French flag. The French flag has three colours: blue, white and red.

His lawyer told French media he will appeal the expulsion procedure.

French media published excerpts of the expulsion order, which stated that Mahjoubi had "conveyed a literal, backward, intolerant, and violent conception of Islam, likely to encourage behaviors contrary to the values of the Republic, discrimination against women, identity retreat, tensions with the Jewish community, and jihadist radicalization'."

BFM reported that Mahjoubi was being held in administrative detention in the Paris region.

Darmanin did not specify where the imam had been held nor when, how and where to he was expelled.

Franceinfo reported that Mahjoubi was on a plane headed to Tunis on Thursday evening.

Darmanin said that the French government's new immigration law, voted earlier this year, had allowed for the quick expulsion of the imam.

With the far-right RN party leading in polls for European elections in June, President Emmanuel Macron is under pressure to be tough on immigration and identity issues.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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