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Top French court backs stripping jihadist of nationality

The Constitutional Council in Paris
The Constitutional Council in Paris AFP/Thomas Samson

France’s Constitutional Council has ruled that stripping a binational jihadist of his French nationality is legal. His lawyer complained of an “emotional context” in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings and vowed to fight the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

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As the French government considers new anti-terror measures, such as depriving convicted terrorists of their civic rights, the Constitutional Council decreed that a lower court had acted lawfully in stripping Franco-Moroccan Ahmed Sahnouni el-Yaacoubi of his French citizenship.

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

Sahnouni, 44, was sentenced to seven years in jail in March 2013 after being found guilty of running a network to send jihadists to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Sahel, raising funds and overseeing coordination on the ground.

He was stripped of his French nationality in May last year.

French law allows the practise for naturalised people convicted of “terror acts”, unless it would make them stateless, during the 15 years after they have been convicted or after they have been naturalised.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls welcomed the council’s decision and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that the government intends to use the measure again in the future.

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Only eight people have been deprived of their nationality since 1998.

Sahnouni’s lawyer, Nurettin Meseci, contested the move on the grounds that it conflicted with the provisions of the declaration of human rights and the principle of equality of naturalised French citizens with those born in France.

Complaining of an “emotional context” that worked against his client, he said he would take the case to the Council of State and the European Court of Human Rights, if need be.

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Morocco has demanded Sahnouni’s extradition, although that request is complicated by a diplomatic crisis between France and Morocco.

Torture complaints filed against top Moroccan officials last year led to bilateral judicial relations being cut and anti-terror cooperation frozen.

If the extradition call is dropped, France could expel Sahnouni.

Meseci claims that his client could be jailed for 20 years in Morocco.
 

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