Top court rules to strip binational militant of French nationality

The Constitutional Council ruled that the seriousness of the fight against extremism justified the move. (File photo: AFP)

France’s top legal body ruled Friday that stripping a binational convicted militant of his French nationality was lawful, after his lawyer challenged the move just as the country ups its fight against extremism.

The case brought in front of the Constitutional Council comes after the government announced a series of anti-terror measures following the deadly Paris attacks and mulls whether to use this move more widely.

Ahmed Sahnouni, a Moroccan naturalized by France in 2003, was convicted and handed a seven-year prison term in March 2013 for activities in a terror organization and stripped of his citizenship in May last year.

Born in Casablanca in 1970, Sahnouni was convicted for having overseen recruitment networks of aspiring militants  to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and the Sahel region of North Africa, raising funds for them and overseeing the operational coordination of volunteers once on the ground.

Under French law, authorities can strip people of their naturalized citizenship if they are convicted of “terror acts,” but bans the move if it would make them stateless.

The law also states that a person’s nationality can be removed anytime during a 15-year period after being naturalized, or 15 years after being convicted for terror acts -- up from 10 years previously.

Sahnouni’s lawyer Nurettin Meseci had argued that the law creates inequalities between those who are French by birth and those who are naturalised.

“Are there French people who are more French than others?” he asked in court.

“If legislators believe that the fight against terrorism involves stripping nationalities, they are wrong.”

He also argued that the move aimed to expel his client to Morocco, “where he risks being sentenced to 20 years in prison.”

Adding to this, Meseci said that increasing the two time periods during which a person can be stripped of their nationality from 10 to 15 years was “disproportionate.”

But the Constitutional Council ruled that the seriousness of the fight against extremism justified the move and did not “violate the principle of equality.”

The ruling also comes at a time of serious diplomatic crisis between France and Morocco over torture complaints filed against top Moroccan officials last year.

Since then, bilateral judicial relations have been cut and anti-terrorism cooperation frozen.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:44 - GMT 06:44