France to expel 231 suspected extremists after attack on teacher

France to expel 231 suspected extremists after attack on teacher

10/18/2020

Paris: France is preparing to expel 231 foreigners on a government watch list for suspected extremist religious beliefs, a police union source said, two days after a Russian-born Islamist beheaded a teacher.

France's interior ministry, responsible for expelling foreigners, was not available to confirm the information, which had been initially reported by Europe 1.

Protestors hold copies of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo which read ‘all that for this’ during an anti-terrorism vigil at Place de La Republique for the murdered school teacher Samuel Paty who was killed in a terrorist attack in the suburbs of Paris.Credit:Getty Images

France defines extremists as "people who, engaged in a process of radicalisation, are likely to want to go abroad to join terrorist groups or take part in terrorist activities".

President Emmanuel Macron's centrist government has been under pressure from conservative and far-right parties to take a tougher stance on non-nationals deemed to pose a security threat.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin asked local prefects to order the expulsions at a meeting on Sunday afternoon, according to the source and Europe 1.

Of the total number of suspects, 180 people are currently in prison and 51 were due to be arrested in the next hours, the police union source said.

Darmanin also asked his ministry's services to examine more closely the requests of people wishing to obtain the status of refugee in France, the source said.

The 18-year-old suspected Islamist who beheaded history teacher Samuel Paty outside his school on Friday was born in Russia of Chechen origin and had refugee status.

Macron held a Defence Council meeting with senior cabinet ministers on Sunday.

Thousands of people gathered across France on Sunday to support teachers and defend freedom of expression after the killing of Paty.

From Paris to Lyon, Marseille and Lille large crowds gathered quietly, pausing regularly to applaud, hold minutes of silence or sing the national anthem.

Prime Minister Jean Castex attended the gathering on Place de La Republique in Paris along with Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and politicians from across the spectrum, showing solidarity after a killing that has shocked the country.

"You don't scare us. We are not afraid. You will not divide us. We are France!" Castex tweeted later.

Earlier this month, the Paty had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression, angering a number of Muslim parents. Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.

The assailant, who was born in Russia of Chechen origin, was shot dead by police soon after the attack. Police have detained 11 people in connection with the killing.

People at the events on Sunday wore masks against COVID-19 and carried signs such as "Teaching yes, bleeding no" or "I am Charlie" in a reference to satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose offices were attacked in a mass killing five years ago.

"We're here to defend the Republic, the values of the Republic: liberty, equality, fraternity and secularism. We can feel that the nation is threatened," Pierre Fourniou, 83, said in Paris.

Paty had been the target of an angry campaign on social media before he was killed. Castex said in an interview in Journal du Dimanche newspaper that the government is working on a strategy to better protect teachers from threats.

A national tribute will be organised for Wednesday.

Reuters

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