ALGIERS, May 17 (AFP) – A radical Islamic cleric, Abdelkader Bouziane, on Monday said he had been given a visa allowing him to return to France, which expelled him on April 21 after he publicly justified wife-beating.
“The French consulate in Algiers sent me a fax on Sunday afternoon saying I’d been given my visa. I’ve been to fetch it,” the imam said, adding that he would be “very happy” to be reunited with his family.
The polygamous father of 16 children who hold French nationality, was expelled to Algeria and saw his French resident’s permit confiscated reportedly less for his highly controversial moral stance than because of alleged links with extreme Muslim fundamentalist groups.
Bouziane, imam of a mosque in a suburb of the central French city of Lyon, roused a furore last month by defending in a magazine interview sexual inequality, the physical punishment of unfaithful or disobedient wives and polygamy.
A French administrative tribunal that reviewed Bouziane’s case after his forced departure ruled that the government had acted illegally by not formally charging the imam with any crime and failing to give 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.
In the end, the Council of State, France’s highest judicial body in such matters, upheld the interior ministry’s decision, but President Jacques Chirac had already said that if the law needed to be changed to prevent a repetition of such episodes, modifications would be made.
The imam said Monday that he had already tried to book an Algiers-Lyon air ticket but had been told that all flights were full until May 25. He said he would still try to get back earlier.