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Belgium Fails to Deport Imam with Ties to 2004 Madrid Train Bombings

An attempt to deport Islamist ‘hate preacher’ Abdallah Ouahbour has been blocked, Le Soir reports. Belgium’s Conseil du Contentieux des Etrangers (CCE), an administrative court that deals with expulsion orders, found the reasons listed by the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration to be “too general” and “too vague.” 

Described by the Belgian threat unit l’Organe de Coordination pour l’Analyse de la Menace (OCAM) and state security as a “preacher of hate presenting a high level of threat,” Abdallah Ouahbour (48) is said to be one of the main leaders of the “Maaseik Group.” The group is believed to be linked to the terrorist attacks in the Moroccan city of Casablanca (2003) and Madrid (2004). The latter killed 191 and left more than 1,800 wounded. These attacks were one of the deadliest on European soil post WWII. Taken together, they claimed 236 lives, suicide bombers included. The latest report from state security also stated that Ouahbour had lent moral and financial support to the terrorist group, Islamic State.

Proceedings for the expulsion of Abdallah Ouahbour, married with two children, began in 2021. In June, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi ruled that Ouahbour had to leave the territory. While born in Belgium, Ouahbour also has a Moroccan passport. He has been living in Belgium since 1990. Ouahbour opposed the move to deport him, having argued that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and that he feared arrest in Morocco.

The CCE however rejects this request for deportation on a different basis. It believes that state security must put forward “more concrete allegations” of the threat risk the man poses for such an order to be carried out. 

On his party’s website, Member of Parliament Dries van Langenhove decried this decision, saying that it “shows once again the bankruptcy of the Belgian repatriation policy.” The blanket dismissal of Ouahbour’s support for terrorism—considered an insufficient cause for deportation—and the fact that the deportation procedure has lasted 16 years are both equally irksome to van Langenhove:

According to the Council for Immigration Disputes, the damning reports from the OCAD and the State Security are not sufficient to expel the hate propagandist from the country. And that while even a newspaper like De Morgen already named him in 2005 as being involved in the Madrid and Casablanca attacks. We are now 16 years later and it is unacceptable that Ouahbour still resides in Belgium.

The news comes only a few weeks after Belgium had stripped the residency permit of the highly popular Muslim cleric Mohamed Toujgani. Toujgani was chief imam of the Al Khalil Grand Mosque in Molenbeek, the Brussels district known as a breeding ground—and place of refuge—for Islamist radicals. Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Mahdi then stated: 

In the past, we have given radical preachers too much leeway. This man was probably the most influential preacher in Belgium. With this decision, we are making a difference and giving a clear signal: we will not tolerate those who divide and threaten our national security.

Madhi has made it known he will not resign himself to the CCE’s pronouncement. His department is now investigating whether an appeal to Belgium’s High Court should be lodged or a new eviction be prepared.

Tristan Vanheuckelom writes on film, literature, and comics for various Dutch publications. He is an avid student of history, political theory, and religion, and is a News Writer at The European Conservative.

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