Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, BelgiumiStock

An appeals court in Belgium threw out on Tuesday a French request for the extradition of an imam who fled France after being convicted of antisemitic incitement.

Hassan Iquioussen, 58, a resident of French who also holds Moroccan citizenship, had been issued a deportation order by French authorities for “virulent antisemitic hate speech” and for encouraging the “submission” of women.

He went on the run from authorities in August after receiving the deportation order. When police officers arrived at Iquioussen’s home in the northern town of Valenciennes to carry out the order, they discovered that the imam had fled across the border into Belgium.

Later that month, the top administrative court in France sided with the government’s decision that the imam should be expelled to Morocco, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Darmanin wrote on Twitter that Iquioussen “will be expelled from the national territory [in] a great victory for the republic.”

“The facts on which this arrest warrant is based do not constitute an offence under Belgian law,” the Belgian appeal court said, according to Reuters. “It is not valid, so we will not execute it.”

The appeals court sided with a ruling by a lower court that threw out the extradition warrant for the imam.

Iquioussen’s lawyers admitted that his comments were “backward” but claimed that there were no grounds for his arrest and deportation.

Lawyer Lucie Simon said: “There is no offence in Belgium, and we consider there is none in France either.”