LYON, France, April 29 (AFP) – A radical Islamist cleric, deported to his native Algeria by the French authorities last week for justifying wife-beating, applied Thursday for a visa to return to France, his lawyer said.
The return of Abdelkader Bouziane, a 52-year-old Algerian who preached at a mosque in the eastern city of Lyon, was made possible after an administrative tribunal ruled the deportation illegal.
Bouziane has written to the French consulate-general asking for a “return visa,” according to his lawyer Mahmoud Hebia.
“This request will probably arrive on May 2,” he said after a telephone conversation with Bouziane in Algiers. He said that as soon as the visa was issued Bouziane “will get his return ticket and come back to France.”
The tribunal that reviewed the case after Bouziane’s forced departure ruled that the government had acted illegally by not formally charging the imam with any crime and not giving him an opportunity to defend himself.
A second review upheld that verdict, despite the interior ministry supplying newly unclassified intelligence reports purporting to depict Bouziane as a dangerous radical.
The goverment has said the imam “will have to answer to French justice for his acts and statements” if he does come back from Algeria.
The decision to allow him back has led President Jacques Chirac to call for a change in the law on the expulsion of foreigners to avoid a repetition of the affair.
Bouziane, who presides at a mosque in a Lyon suburb and believes in a strict, fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, was accused of damage to public order by defending in a magazine interview sexual inequality, the physical punishment of unfaithful or disobedient wives and polygamy.
“If we have to… modify the law so as not to have other cases of this sort, which are unacceptable to us, we shall modify the law to enable us to expel people who make this kind of statement,” Chirac said at a news conference.
“The arguments which it seems this imam put forward are unacceptable, totally to be condemned. They are an attack on human rights and we cannot therefore allow to be put forward in our country.”
Hebia said his client would make himself available to the legal authorities once he was back in France. He said he “badly wanted” to come face to face with the journalists with the magazine because “he had remarks to make.”
“The interview lasted more than an hour and half. When I read the content of what was (published) it is an interview of half an hour, not more. So there have been cuts”” “probably abbreviations” and “even interpretations”, he said.
Hebia said the imam had not understood all the questions put by the magazine.
“I have some suggestions that what stoning means was repeated to him three or four times. He did not understand.”