“I can confirm that he was arrested today by the police,” Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne told AFP.
According to a French police source, he was arrested by the Belgian police “without incident”. According to a source familiar with the matter, he was imprisoned in the evening in Tournai, a Belgian city near the French border.
The French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin announced at the end of July the expulsion of this preacher, on file S (for state security) by the DGSI (General Directorate of Internal Security) “for eighteen months”, according to him.
The expulsion order accused him of “a proselytizing speech interspersed with remarks inciting hatred and discrimination and carrying a vision of Islam contrary to the values of the Republic”.
“I am delighted that Mr. Iquioussen was arrested today by the Belgian services, whom I thank very sincerely”, reacted Mr. Darmanin, on the sidelines of his trip to Cayenne in Guyana to participate in the Security Conference.
“To evade a decision of expulsion from the national territory is an offense that the Penal Code condemns”, he added.
Mr. Iquioussen’s support committee, for its part, specified that its advice was “mobilized in order to obtain his release”, in a press release published on its Facebook page on Friday evening, at the same time as a video of the preacher shot before his arrest, where he says he has “confidence in justice”.
The man born in France and of Moroccan nationality hammered that he was “French (…) in (his) head” and that he went abroad because he was “asked to leave (his) country”.
Not found since the green light from the French Council of State for his expulsion at the end of August, the preacher was then the subject of a European arrest warrant issued by an investigating judge in Valenciennes (north), for “subtraction to the execution of a deportation decision”.
The imam has since been at the heart of a legal imbroglio.
His lawyer, Me Lucie Simon, disputes in particular the validity of the arrest warrant targeting him, believing that it is based “on an offense” which is, according to her, “not constituted”. “Why look for him? Why do you want to bring him back?”, she wondered at the beginning of September.
– “Judicial cooperation” –
According to Mr. Darmanin, “now it is a matter of judicial cooperation between Belgian justice and French justice. At the end of this legal procedure, there will be an administrative procedure. Mr. Iquioussen will be placed in an administrative detention center and will be deported to his country of origin, Morocco.
The procedure for handing over the imam to France could take several weeks if the person concerned objects to it.
Between legal quarrels and media battles, the debates around the imam fed French news in August. The announcement of his expulsion was suspended by the Paris administrative court which ruled that it would cause “a disproportionate attack” on his “private and family life”.
He had been splashed by a first controversy in 2004, pinned for remarks deemed anti-Semitic in a speech on Palestine. The person concerned later recognized “inappropriate comments” and apologized.
His name then reappeared regularly in the press and public debate.
His YouTube channel, where he delivers lessons and sermons on Islam in everyday life (poverty, violence, fulfillment in the couple, etc.), has 178,000 subscribers.
Born in France, he had decided when he came of age not to opt for French nationality. He claims to have given it up at the age of 17 under the influence of his father, and then to have tried in vain to recover it.
His five children and his 15 grandchildren are French and established in the North of France: one son is an imam in Raismes, another ex-elected PS in Lourches.