Immigrants who practice polygamy or female genital mutilation should have their citizenship revoked, France’s interior minister said Saturday, going beyond President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to strip the French nationality of foreign-born people who endanger police.
Brice Hortefeux spoke as a Muslim Frenchman at the center of a firestorm over polygamy was detained for questioning by police.
Preliminary fraud charges were filed in June against Algerian-born Lies Hebbadj for allegedly collecting too much state aid for up to 15 children he reportedly had with four different women. The case became public last April when his veiled wife was issued a traffic citation for driving with apparel that hinders vision.
Hebbadj was being questioned Saturday over a former companion's claims of alleged acts of rape and violence from 2003-2007, prosecutor Xavier Ronsin said.
Polygamy charges were never filed against Hebbadj, who lives in the Nantes region in western France. Because the women and children live under separate roofs, investigators could not prove polygamy as defined by law. Hortefeux said at the time that, regretfully, "no one or almost no one is judicially speaking polygamous in France" under the penal code as it stands.
On Saturday, the minister, speaking on RTL radio, reiterated his wish to see Hebbadj's nationality revoked if found guilty. Later, speaking to reporters in Perpignan, he said that he also wanted "the possibility of revoking nationality in cases of polygamy, female circumcision." The president has said the move to revoke citizenship, denounced by immigrants' and human rights' groups, was part of a "national war on delinquency."
Prosecutor Ronsin said Saturday that Hebbadj was detained for questioning Friday evening. His detention period was extended until Sunday, according to his lawyer, Cecile de Oliveira.
The lawyer said her client was being "tracked by unrelenting police."
"This comes at a good time," she said, referring to Hebbadj's detention just as the minister spoke out again against polygamy. "It comes at even too good a time."
Hortefeux said he would submit his proposal to the government by the end of the month. However, Immigration Minister Eric Besson raised questions about the legal possibility of including polygamy among reasons to revoke nationality, saying the subject is particularly "complex."