LYON, France, Oct 5 (AFP) – An Algerian cleric was flown out of here Tuesday bound for Algeria as French authorities ordered him deported for publicly defending wife-beating.
Abdelkader Bouziane was put aboard a flight bound for the Algerian city of Oran hours after he was arrested at his home in the eastern city of Lyon and taken to a special airport detention centre following a decision by French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin to expel him.
The cleric’s deportation came the day after France’s top administrative court overturned a previous ruling suspending an expulsion order against Bouziane that had been issued by the interior ministry.
De Villepin said the move signaled France’s determination to combat Islamist extremism which he charged was “a threat against security” and “an obstacle to the emergence of a peaceful Islam” in France.
“It (Islamic fundamentalism) is both a threat against the security of our nationals, of our compatriots and an obstacle to the emergence of a peaceful Islam in France,” he told parliament in reply to questioning on Bouziane’s expulsion.
Bouziane, the father of 16 children, all of whom hold French nationality, had first been deported to Algeria on April 21 and saw his French resident’s permit confiscated.
But he returned within weeks, after a French tribunal ruled the expulsion illegal because Bouziane was never charged with a crime and not allowed to defend himself.
The action against Bouziane, 53, was prompted by an interview he gave the April issue of a local Lyon magazine in which he said wife-beating was authorised by the Koran, announced his polygamy and expressed the wish that “the entire world become Muslim.”
The interior ministry, enacting a new directive aimed at stamping out Islamic fundamentalism among France’s five-million-strong Muslim population, had him deported within three weeks of the interview’s publication.
De Villepin said at the time the ruling was justified because Bouziane, who was then in charge of a mosque in a Lyon suburb, “belonged to a movement whose extremist elements justified terrorism” and that the deportation order was initially authorised in February on those grounds.
In June he was put under judicial investigation, one step short of formal charges, for “justification of a crime and direct provocation” as the interior ministry appealed the decision to France’s top administrative court, the State Council.
“The State Council has clearly stated the law. The ministry’s order has had its legal validity restored,” regional authorities in Lyon said in a statement.
Bouziane’s lawyer, Mahmoud Hebia, said his client had offered no opposition to police and that he had had time to pack his personal effects. He reiterated that Bouziane denied the accusations that he had links to terrorists.