Top court rules that France can deport conservative imam

·2-min read
A view shows the Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court, in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - France's highest administrative court ruled on Tuesday that a France-born Moroccan imam whom the government had accused of promoting hate could be deported, a court ruling showed.

That decision overturned a previous ruling by a Paris court suspending a deportation order against Hassan Iquioussen in July for "inciting hate, discrimination and violence", notably against the Jewish community and women.

The Conseil d'Etat, which acts as the supreme court for administrative justice, found, contrary to the first ruling, that his deportation to Morocco would not be a disproportionate interference with his right to lead a normal private and family life.

Iquioussen, 58, was born in France and his immediate family lives there, though he does not have French nationality.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin took to Twitter following the ruling, calling it "a big victory for the Republic. He will be deported from national soil."

Iquioussen's lawyer Lucie Simon also reacted to the decision on Twitter, saying the legal battle was not over and that her client was still considering going to the European Court of Human Rights.

"Discriminations are not fought by creating new ones," she wrote.

During a lengthy hearing last week, Simon said her client was conservative and made backward and regrettable comments, but that it didn't make him a threat to public order.

She also said that none of the charges were new, notably the anti-Semitic comments, and that despite being under intelligence services' surveillance since the late 1990s, he was never prosecuted or convicted.

The accusations of stirring hate as well as anti-Semitism and sexism stem from comments in public addresses between 2003 and 2019.

He developed a wide following for his preachings in mosques as well as online to 174,000 YouTube followers and 44,000 Facebook followers at a time France has suffered waves of Islamist militant attacks and become increasingly nervous about the perceived threat from Islamist separatism.

(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro; editing by Jonathan Oatis)