France: Anti-terror police search and interrogate 10-year-old Muslim children for over 11 hours

27th Nov 2020
France: Anti-terror police search and interrogate 10-year-old Muslim children for over 11 hours

Servet Yıldırım with his daughter and Mukaddes Akdağ with her son, both their homes and that of two others were raided by anti-terror police on November 5. (Credit: Bayram Altuğ/Anadolu Agency)

Nadine Osman

The homes of four Muslim primary schoolchildren from Albertville in southeastern France were raided simultaneously by masked armed anti-terror police. The children and their parents were also interrogated for more than 11 hours over false allegations that they condoned terrorism on November 5.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, the parents of the children say they and their children were treated like “terrorists” because of classroom answers the children gave during a discussion on the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Prophet Muhammad and the subsequent murder of a teacher who showed the cartoons in class.

Their school is said to have reported the children — three of Turkish and one of Algerian descent — to the police because “they said they did not like cartoons against Prophet Mohammed, and they were bad.”

One of the children stated that his teacher asked him what he thought about Samuel Paty’s murder, “I said, ‘I was sorry that he died, but nothing would have happened if he had not shown that cartoon.’ The teacher said, ‘Okay, I understand’ but didn’t say anything else.”

Using the Draconian (2014) Penal Code Article 421-2-5, prosecutors have been aggressively pursuing anyone, including minors who “speak positively of a terrorist act or group” even if they have no intention of inciting violence or promoting the group.

According to Human Rights Watch, ‘Many of those caught up in the new law are minors. French Interior Ministry figures show that 20 per cent of those investigated under this provision in 2016 were minors — and 6 per cent were between the ages 10 and 14.’

“Before 7 a.m. the police knocked [on the door] in such a way as to almost breaking it, ten masked policemen carrying big weapons entered the house. They took pictures of the wall decorations, tried to find clues by searching the whole house” said Servet Yildirim, the father of one of the children.

Police proceeded to search the house without submitting any search-warrant. Officers then woke up his daughter and before telling them they were taking her to the police station.

At the police station, “They asked us a lot of questions about our religious beliefs if we pray, etc. They questioned both of us, my wife and I, for two hours. Apart from questions about our religion, they asked us what we thought about the tense relationship between [French President Emmanuel] Macron and [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan,” said Yildirim, who is in the process of suing the school.

The parents then had their fingerprints and mug-shots photos taken without being charged. “As they did in the morning, they wanted to terrorise us with noise and excessive violence. I don’t understand, ten overly armed police officers, trying to, it seems, to break down our door, to come and get my 10-year-old daughter, who was still asleep.”

“These aren’t things we talk about at home,” he said, adding that “everyone knows our family after 20 years of living here. The school knows us very well; we had several children who went to the same school. If there was a concern about radicalization with us, everyone would know.”

Mukaddes Akdağ, the mother of the other child, said, “I slept after my husband went to work. The police raided our house at around 07.30 in the morning. They came to take my little son. We had no information; we were unprepared. It was a big surprise.”
Akdağ also said police failed to produce a search warrant and said that the house was searched and photos of the verses of the Qurʼān were taken.

Police took custody of the child without any explanation as her other children watched fearfully his parents also went to the police station to testify.

Violation of Penal Code Article 421-2-5 is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €75,000. Offences committed online can lead to seven years imprisonment and a €100,000 fine.

Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Yavuz Selim Kiran, condemned the children’s detention and vowed to follow up on it. ‘What state mentality detains 10-year-old children with long-barrelled guns, raid their homes and interrogate them for hours?’

Asked Kiran on Twitter. ‘We strongly condemn this inhumane practice against our citizens in Albertville, France. We are closely following the matter.’

The International Jurist Union (IJU) head also slammed the detention of the children insisting the development is boosting racism and Islamophobia.

Criticizing the “unlawful” detention of children, Secretary-General if the IJU, Necati Ceylan said that children should not be dragged into such tensions as they would be negatively affected pedagogically and psychologically.

“Racist and Islamophobic discourse of French leaders were imposed on underage children, and their future would be adversely shaped by such motives,” he warned.

 

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