New York Times: French rein in speech backing acts of terrorism

The French authorities are moving aggressively to rein in speech supporting terrorism, employing a new law to mete out tough prison sentences in a crackdown that is stoking a free-speech debate after last week’s attacks in Paris.

Those swept up under the new law include a 28-year-old man of French-Tunisian background who was sentenced to six months in prison after he was found guilty of shouting support for the attackers as he passed a police station in Bourgoin-Jallieu on Sunday. A 34-year-old man who hit a car while drunk on Saturday, injured the other driver and subsequently praised the acts of the gunmen when the police detained him was sentenced Monday to four years in prison.

All told, up to 100 people are under investigation for making or posting comments that support or try to justify terrorism, according to Cédric Cabut, a prosecutor in Bourgoin-Jallieu, in the east of France. The French news media have reported about cases in Paris, Toulouse, Nice, Strasbourg, Orléans and elsewhere in France.

The arrests have raised questions about a double standard for free speech here, with one set of rules for the cartoonists who freely skewered religions of all kinds, even when Muslims, Catholics and others objected, and yet were defended for their right to do so, and another set for the statements by Muslim supporters of the gunmen, which have led to their prosecution.

But French law does prohibit speech that might invoke or support violence. And prosecutors, who on Wednesday were urged by the Ministry of Justice to fight and prosecute “words or acts of hatred” with “utmost vigor,” are relying particularly on new tools under a law adopted in November to battle the threat of jihadism. The law includes prison sentences of up to seven years for backing terrorism.

Some of those who were cited under the new law have already been sentenced, with the criminal justice system greatly accelerated, moving from accusations to trial and imprisonment in as little as three days.

Prosecutors seized on the law in the days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, which left 17 people dead — 12 at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly newspaper that was targeted in retaliation for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. A notice from the Ministry of Justice on Jan. 12 directed prosecutors to react firmly.

The accused did not have to threaten actual violence to run afoul of the law. According to Mr. Cabut, who brought the case in Bourgoin-Jallieu, the man shouted: “They killed Charlie and I had a good laugh. In the past they killed Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mohammed Merah and many brothers. If I didn’t have a father or mother, I would train in Syria.”

The most prominent case now pending in the French courts is that of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a provocative humorist who has been a longtime symbol in France of the battle between free speech and public safety. With nearly 40 previous arrests on suspicion of violating antihate laws, for statements usually directed at Jews, he was again arrested on Wednesday, this time for condoning terrorism.

He faces trial in early February in connection with a Facebook message he posted, declaring, “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” It was a reference to the popular slogan of solidarity for the murdered Charlie Hebdo cartoonists — “Je suis Charlie” — and to one of the attackers, Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a policewoman and later four people in a kosher supermarket last Friday.
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Prosecutors and other lawyers say the difference is laid out in French law, which unlike United States laws, limits what can be said or done in specific categories. Because of its World War II history, for example, France has speech laws that specifically address anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. In the case of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, prosecutors said, the targets were ideas and concepts, and though deemed extreme by some, the satire was meted out broadly.

“A lot of people say that it’s unjust to support Charlie Hebdo and then allow Dieudonné to be censored,” said Mathieu Davy, a lawyer who specializes in media rights. “But there are clear limits in our legal system. I have the right to criticize an idea, a concept or a religion. I have the right to criticize the powers in my country. But I don’t have the right to attack people and to incite hate.”

President Francois Hollande of France and Chancellor Angel Merkel of Germany on Thursday both sought to quash any backlash against Muslims in the wake of the Islamic militants’ attacks. As they have also done in recent days, they raised the issue of anti-Semitism.

“We must be clear between ourselves, lucid,” Mr. Hollande told an audience at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris. He said inequalities and conflicts that had persisted for years had fueled radical Islam. “The Muslims are the first victims of fanaticism, extremism and intolerance,” he said. “French Muslims have the same rights, the same duties as all citizens.” Pope Francis joined the debate while traveling to the Philippines from Sri Lanka, saying that while he defended freedom of expression, there were also limits.

“You cannot provoke,” he said. “You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

CAIR Applauds Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Muslim Inmate’s Religious Rights [PRESS RELEASE]

PRESS RELEASE: “The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that a Muslim inmate in Arkansas be permitted to grow a beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.

That decision overturned a state prison policy banning beards. The justices rejected the claim that the policy was needed for security reasons.

Justice Samuel Alito noted that prison officials already search clothing and hair and had not offered a reason they could not search beards as well. Alito wrote: “[I]nterest in eliminating contraband cannot sustain its refusal to allow petitioner to grow a half-inch beard.” “Hair on the head is a more plausible place to hide contraband than a half-inch beard, and the same is true of an inmate’s clothing and shoes,” Alito wrote. “Nevertheless, the department does not require inmates to go about bald, barefoot or naked.”

CAIR Applauds Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Muslim Inmate’s Religious Rights [Press Release]

Muslim inmates in the Jumu'ah prayer service in the chapel of the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles County during the month of Ramadan. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
Muslim inmates in the Jumu’ah prayer service in the chapel of the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles County during the month of Ramadan. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/20/15) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that a Muslim inmate in Arkansas be permitted to grow a beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.

That decision overturned a state prison policy banning beards. The justices rejected the claim that the policy was needed for security reasons.

Justice Samuel Alito noted that prison officials already search clothing and hair and had not offered a reason they could not search beards as well. Alito wrote: “[I]nterest in eliminating contraband cannot sustain its refusal to allow petitioner to grow a half-inch beard.” “Hair on the head is a more plausible place to hide contraband than a half-inch beard, and the same is true of an inmate’s clothing and shoes,” Alito wrote. “Nevertheless, the department does not require inmates to go about bald, barefoot or naked.”

SEE: Supreme Court Rules for Muslim Inmate Over Prison Beard Policy (Reuters)
Supreme Court Upholds Religious Rights of Prisoners (USA Today)

“We applaud the ruling in this important case, which firmly underscores that courts should not blindly defer when the government invokes ‘security’ as a reason to curtail rights,” said CAIR Civil Rights Litigation Director Jenifer Wicks. “The state has the burden of proving that a compelling government interest justifies its burden on the exercise of religion beliefs and practices. In this case, the court rightfully rejected arguments the growing of a beard in any way harmed prison safety and security.”

Wicks noted that CAIR recently filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief on inmate religious rights with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is considering whether the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) policy requiring direct supervision by a chaplain or outside volunteer of inmates who gather in groups for religious services is unconstitutional.

Late last year, CAIR also filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering whether clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch’s refusal to hire a Muslim woman wearing a religious headscarf (hijab) was discriminatory.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Jihadism Born in Paris Park and Fueled in Prison

They jogged together or did calisthenics along the hilly lawns and tulip-dotted gardens of Buttes-Chaumont, the public park in northeastern Paris built more than a century ago under Emperor Napoleon III. Or they met in nearby apartments with a janitor turned self-proclaimed imam, a man deemed too radical by one local mosque because of his call for waging jihad in Iraq.

The group of young Muslim men, some still teenagers, became known to the French authorities as the Buttes-Chaumont group after the police in 2005 broke up their pipeline for sending young French Muslims from their immigrant neighborhood to fight against American troops in Iraq. The arrests seemingly shattered the group, and some officials and experts were skeptical that members ever posed a threat to France.

But the shocking terror attacks last week in Paris have now made plain that the Buttes-Chaumont network produced some of Europe’s most militant jihadists, including Chérif Kouachi, one of the three terrorists whose three-day rampage left 17 people dead and who was killed by the police.

Other alumni from the group have died in Iraq or remained committed to radical Islam, including a French-Tunisian now aligned with the Islamic State who has claimed responsibility for a handful of assassinations in Tunisia, including the July 2013 murder of a leading left-wing politician.

“They were considered the least dangerous,” Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor of Middle East studies and specialist on French Islamic terror cells, said of the Buttes-Chaumont group. “And now you see them really at the forefront.”

Now French authorities, while still piecing together how such violent attacks could have been staged in the capital, must also be concerned by the possibility that other homegrown groups may be passing unnoticed — or may be similarly underestimated.
The attacks suggest the prospect of a potent intermingling among some members of the original Buttes-Chaumont group and other extremists. Their meeting place, apparently, was the French prison system.

There, their radicalism hardened as some members of the group came together with other prominent jihadists who were connected to more extensive and dangerous militant networks.

For decades, France has endured Islamic terror threats and attacks, from Iranian-inspired groups during the 1980s to Algerian extremists in the 1990s to cells linked to Al Qaeda before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

More recently, French and other European security services have grown increasingly alarmed by thousands of young, alienated Muslim citizens who have enlisted for jihad in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

In each decade, a familiar pattern has emerged: a radicalized minority of European Muslims — whether they have gone abroad for jihad or not — have been angered and inspired by wars the West has waged in the Arab world, Africa and beyond, and have sought to bring the costs of those conflicts home.

After French authorities swept up members of the Buttes-Chaumont group in the 2005, during his time in prison Chérif Kouachi came under the sway of an influential French-Algerian jihadist who had plotted to bomb the United States Embassy in Paris in 2001.
Continue reading the main story

Secular France Moves to Confront Jihadism After Slow Start (Reuters)

France has been slow to respond to the spread of jihadist ideology because strict state secularism forbids any incursion into individuals’ religious affairs. This has created a breeding ground that has pulled in converts like Guillaume, radicalized while in prison for assaulting a police officer.(Reuters)

X-Factor Sensation Jordi to jihadist camp

Jordi, who seven years ago participated in X Factor is in prison, suspected of taking part in a terrorist-training in Syria.
Once Jordi dreamed of becoming a star. But he converted to Islam, became an orthodox Muslim and a career in music was no longer an option.

By his neighbours he was seen as a friendly neighbour. When his neighbour teased him, calling him ‘Bin Laden’, Jordi would just wave friendly.

But in 2013 he went to Syria, leaving his wife and son. Three months later Jordi returns. Parents ask information about their sons and daughters who went to Syria and his neighbours don’t want him anymore. He friendly avoids talking to journalists. He wants peace. And he goes living secretly in Rotterdam.

Prisons: the trap of radical Islam

June 8, 2014

In recent weeks the story of Mehdi Nemmouche, suspected of killing three people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, has made international headlines. His chilling story illustrates the “plague of radical Islam in prison.” As a child, Nemmouche grew up in a chaotic household and was a repeated offender at a young age–jailed five times for robbery. It was during his last incarceration from 2007 to 2012 that he became associated with Salafis. Pinned as a “thug turned terrorist,” by Bernard Cazeneuve, Nemmouche acted on his transformation when he was released from his last prison term.

Prosecutor François Moins says that Nemmouche transferred prisons in March 2011 for security reasons. His character was “illustrated by extreme proselytizing, [he was] a member of a group of extremely radical Islamists, and frequently called others to prayer.” During his time in prison Nemmouche wrote to support groups for Muslim prisoners to gather information about the obligation of Muslim women to wear headscarves and to understand how Muslim men should trim their beards.

Le Figaro reports that in 2014, approximately 150 Muslim extremists attempted to indoctrinate their fellow detainees with radical beliefs. This number has barely changed since 2008, when a confidential report was released that mentioned 147 instances of proselytizing by radical Muslims. Le Figaro states that “clearly, the same ‘strong core’ is still fanning the flame of jihad at the heart of the incarcerated population that is composed, for the most part, of Muslims.” According to experts this number “approaches sixty or seventy percent in prisons in the banlieues.”

For religious extremists, prisons are especially conducive to promoting radicalism. They are overpopulated and often filled with young people with “shattered futures” seeking attention. Despite this, there are few resources available to combat the growing problem. The prison administration has developed an informational bureau, EMS-3, which is charged with monitoring the most dangerous inmates. The bureau is not permitted to monitor prisoners’ phone calls, and instead is “forced to tinker with the methods at hand to accomplish their missions.”

The EMS-3 has called on imams to stop the spread of radical Islam in prisons. There are 167 imams at the bureau’s disposal but according to sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar, the EMS-3 needs “three times that much” to counteract the influence of extremist groups. “For the moment, too many imams still have an outdated view of Islam and don’t understand the experience of young people coming from the ghettos…A number of imams refuse to intervene in prison, on the grounds that the detainees are bad Muslims…”

The government is currently considering a “counter-discourse” that is used by moderate preachers whose availability is limited. According to a survey by Ifop-Atlantico, 76% of Frenchmen fear acts of terrorism by individual jihadists. At the end of June, Bernard Cazeneuve will present new measures aimed at strengthening special services to counteract the spread of radical Islam in prisons. Cazeneuve stresses that the need for such services increases as a growing number of Frenchmen are returning from fighting in Syria.

16 years in prison for man in NYC terror bomb plot

March 25, 2014

 

An al-Qaida sympathizer who admitted trying to build pipe bombs to carry out a homegrown terror campaign was sentenced Tuesday to 16 years in prison, capping a case authorities called an illustration of the threat of lone, local would-be terrorists but his lawyers portrayed as an example of police entrapment.

Jose Pimentel, his hands shackled and enclosed in mitts, declined to speak as he was sentenced in the rare state-level terror case; most are federal. City Department of Correction representatives had no immediate information on what the mitts were for.

Pimentel, 29, last month admitted he tried to fashion a pipe bomb out of household items in an informant’s basement in November 2011 and aspired to use it to “try to undermine public support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” He had been recorded brainstorming about attacks ranging from killing returning soldiers to blowing up a police station to bombing the George Washington Bridge, authorities said.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said the case demonstrated the growing threat “from radicalized local actors” and local authorities’ ability to stem it.

Pimentel, a Dominican native, grew up in the United States, converted to Islam around 2004 and became an outspoken extremist who also went by Muhammad Yusuf, authorities said. He maintained a website with articles lauding Osama bin Laden, saying it was valid to target those killed on Sept. 11 and giving reasons to “nuke the USA,” and he repeatedly clashed with relatives over his militant views, prosecutors said in court papers.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/16-years-in-prison-for-man-in-nyc-terror-bomb-plot/2014/03/25/67691086-b47c-11e3-bab2-b9602293021d_story.html

CAIR-MN Welcomes New Hennepin Co. Policy Allowing Hijabs in Jails, Booking Photos

March 20, 2014

 

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today welcomed a new Hennepin County policy that will allow religious headwear, including hijabs (Islamic head scarves), in jails and booking photos. Hennepin County is the first in the state to create a comprehensive policy on religious headwear.

CAIR-MN received cases recently from Muslim women arrested for unpaid traffic fines, protests and other relatively minor crimes who were denied the hijab in booking photos and provided inadequate religious accommodations in jail.

“We welcome this new policy on religious headwear as another example of Hennepin County showing leadership and setting positive precedents for other counties,” said CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Saly Abd Alla. “The new religious headwear policies sends a strong message throughout the state that, regardless of who the individual is or what their situation, we must uphold our principles and follow the law.”

Ms. Abd Alla said both federal and state laws prohibit discrimination against incarcerated individuals based upon religion.

CAIR-MN provided Hennepin County with sample policies from county jails around the country to help them develop “policies that allow inmates to follow their religion and still satisfy safety concerns.”

Hennepin County agreed to provide jail-issued hijabs and other religious headgear to individuals who request it.

In 2011, CAIR-MN asked the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office to accommodate a Muslim woman’s religious beliefs and let her wear a hijab in jail. The jail refused and the woman was transferred.

 

Cair.com: http://cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12411-cair-mn-welcomes-new-hennepin-co-policy-allowing-hijabs-in-jails-booking-photos.html

Briton sentenced to life in prison for drug smuggling

March 18, 2014

 

Khadija Shah, a 26-year-old British woman of Pakistani descent, was sentenced to life in prison in Pakistan on Tuesday after being convicted of trying to smuggle 63 kilograms of heroin out of the country. According to reports, Shah was arrested at the Islamabad airport in May 2012 after the heroin was discovered in several suitcases in her possession. She has claimed that she was carrying the cases for someone else and was unaware of their contents. Her lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, said they would appeal the conviction — given by the Special Narcotics Court in Rawalpindi — next week.

Maya Foa, the director of legal charity Reprieve’s Death Penalty team, said the conviction was “a terrible outcome” for Shah and her baby girl, who was born in prison; Shah was six-months pregnant at the time she was arrested. Foa urged the British government to “ensure that Khadija gets the urgent assistance she needs to appeal her sentence so that her baby doesn’t grow up behind bars.” A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said they were aware of the case and providing Shah and her family with “consular assistance.”

 

Source: http://tribune.com.pk/story/684256/british-pakistani-woman-given-life-sentence-for-drug-smuggling/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=%2AAfPak%20Daily%20Brief&utm_campaign=South%20Asia%20Daily%20Brief%203-19-14