French court suspends conservative imam's deportation

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By Layli Foroudi

PARIS (Reuters) - An administrative court in Paris on Friday suspended a deportation order against a France-born Moroccan imam who the government had accused of promoting hate and posing a threat to society, the tribunal's ruling showed.

The interior ministry ordered the expulsion order against the preacher, Hassan Iquioussen, in July for "inciting hate, discrimination and violence", notably against the Jewish community.

President Emmanuel Macron's government has toughened laws to tackle what it sees as broader signs of radicalisation - often non-violent - within Muslim communities. It has cited the refusal of some Muslim men to shake women's hands, young girls being told to wear full-face veils and a proliferation of Madrassa religious schools.

The court ordered the interior minister to re-examine Iquioussen's case within three months and return his residency permit. Iquioussen, 58, was born in France and his immediate family lives there, though he does not have French nationality.

In its ruling, it said deportation to Morocco would be "a serious and manifestly disproportionate interference with his right to lead a normal private and family life" as laid out by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Iquioussen's lawyer Lucie Simon welcomed the outcome. In a statement to Reuters, she said his past remarks had not been "an explicit provocation to hatred, however regrettable."

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.

The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday had rejected a request to suspend the deportation.

"This man has no place on our national soil," Darmanin told the CNews television ahead of Iquioussen's hearing.

In a statement, Darmanin said he would appeal the decision at France's Conseil d'Etat, its highest administrative court.

(Reporting by Layli Foroudi and Juliette Jabkhiro; editing by Richard Lough and Angus MacSwan)