Fugitive ‘antisemitic’ imam held in Belgium fights deportation

Interior Minister called for Moroccan imam's expulsion over his 'especially virulent anti-Semitic speech'


Police officers stand on a street where a house belonging to the family of Iman Hassan Iquioussen is located, in Lourches, northern France, on August 30, 2022. - The Conseil d'Etat (French Council of State) gave its green light on August 30, 2022 to the expulsion of the Iman Hassan Iquioussen decided by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. (Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP) (Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/AFP via Getty Images)

An Islamist imam accused of antisemitic statements who went on the run after France tried to expel him won a reprieve this week in a Belgian court aginst being sent back to France.

Moroccan imam Hassan Iquioussen, 58, was detained in Belgium last month after he fled from French police trying to arrest him. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had signed an order authorising his deportation to Morocco and announced his imminent arrest. A dozen police officers arrived with an arrest warrant at the imam’s home in the northern town of Lourches but left empty-handed.

Iquioussen’s deportation order says he delivered a “proselytising speech filled with remarks inciting hatred and discrimination and carrying a vision of Islam contrary to the values of the Republic.”

On Tuesday a court in Tournai, Belgium, granted a request from Iquioussen’s lawyer, Nicolas Cohen, for a 10-day adjournment to allow him to mount a case against the European arrest warrant issued by France. The case was adjourned until 21 October.

The imam, an influential preacher with 180,000 followers on YouTube, is accused of praising Osama Bin Laden as “the great fighter against the Americans” and “a great defender of Islam” and of making antisemitic remarks over the years, accusing Zionists of plotting with the Nazis during World War II so that Jews could settle in Palestine. He spoke of a “Jewish conspiracy” and said that “even Jesus called the children of Israel […] a race of vipers”.

Iquioussen, who was born in France to Moroccan parents but chose not to take French citizenship when he turned 18, was flagged a security threat almost two years ago.

His French lawyer Lucie Simon says his statements, which he made several years ago, are not a legitimate reason to expel or arrest him.

“Hassan Iquioussen is confident that Belgian justice will not bow to pressure from the French executive branch which is desperately seeking some media trophy to mask its legislative agenda,” said Simon.

France has struggled to deport foreigners accused of being a security threat and even those who have been convicted.

Morocco first agreed to take in Iquioussen, before revoking his visa. Darmanin has said he will convince the Moroccan authorities to take him back.

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