Moroccan man jailed on terror charges can lose French nationality

Prime minister Manuel Valls

France can strip a French-Moroccan man convicted of terrorism-related crimes of his French nationality, the country’s constitutional council has ruled.

The authority, whose 12 members are known as les sages (the wise), declared on Friday that the fight against terrorism justified what lawyers lambasted as unequal treatment of those who become French compared with those who are born French.

France is currently dealing with the causes and consequences of a series of terrorist attacks that began when gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo just over two weeks ago.

The council had been asked to rule on the case of Ahmed Sahnouni, a Moroccan-born man naturalised in 2003, who was convicted and given a seven-year prison sentence in March 2013 for “association with criminals in relation to a terrorist plot”.

Due for release at the end of 2015, Sahnouni was stripped of his French nationality last May by a decree signed by the prime minister, Manuel Valls, and the interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, but he contested the punishment.

The council’s decision will set a legal precedent for future cases.

Earlier this week, Valls said the removal of a person’s nationality “is a legitimate question that arises regarding the consequences to which a person exposes themselves when they decide to attack the nation to which they belong because they were born there or have been accepted there”.

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Stripping convicted prisoners of their nationality is a threat that has been made by the far-right Front National party, and the opposition rightwing UMP party, but has been used in only eight cases since 1973.

The punishment can be applied only in rare cases concerning those holding dual nationality, having acquired French citizenship, who have been convicted of “a crime or offence constituting an act of terrorism” either before they became French or within 15 years of being naturalised.

Sahnouni’s lawyer, Nurettin Meseci, argued before the council that the removing of his French nationality was discriminatory and created an “inequality between those who are French-born and those who are French-naturalised”.

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