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Radicalisation concerns French police raid homes of Geneva Mosque imams

The two imams work at the Geneva Mosque, the largest in Switzerland

(Keystone)

French police have searched the homes of two imams who work at the Geneva Mosque, the largest in Switzerland, the mosque confirmed on Thursday night. 

The Tribune de Genève newspaper reported earlier in the day that around 20 armed police had raided their homes in the border town of Ferney-Voltaire on Wednesday night. 

The two imams, who were not named, work at the mosque in Geneva’s Petit-Saconnex district managed by the Fondation Culturelle Islamique de Genève.
   
In a statement issued on Thursday, the foundation confirmed the police search authorized by the prefecture in France's Ain department.
   
The statement said following the search, "the authorities gave a signed document to the two imams which attested that no object was found that could lead to a prosecution”.   
   
The foundation said it would take the necessary steps with the Geneva and French authorities to “shed light on the reasons for the search”. 

Questioned by swissinfo.ch, French police refused to comment on the raids or allegations surrounding the imams.

'S file' status?

An article published in the Tribune de Genève on August 28 claimed that two French imams working at the mosque had been subject to a Fiche S since at least 2012. Fiche S, or “S file status”, is reserved for individuals who are considered potential threats to French national security. It is divided into 16 categories depending on the level of threat. 

The paper quoted a confidential note by French border police that highlighted concerns about the imams, the mosque and its potential role in radicalising youngsters. The newspaper also reported that a group of around 20 young extremists had attended the mosque for several months, two of whom allegedly travelled to Syria. 

Last week the mosque issued a statement defending the two imams claiming that “no proof exists of the existence of ‘S’ files” on two preachers working at the Petit-Saconnex mosque.

It added that it had no indication of any problem when it took on the two preachers and that it was “satisfied with their work”.

The foundation, which has close ties to Saudi Arabia, has strongly condemned terrorism and extremism, and recently outlined steps it had taken to improve cooperation with the Geneva cantonal authorities and police and to report potential suspects attending the mosque. 

It said it had installed video surveillance cameras in the building, assigned more guards and limited access to prayer times only. 

On Thursday, a former spokesman for the mosque, Hafid Ouardiri, criticized some of the religious leaders working there. In an article in the Tribune de Genève he claimed that some of those responsible held "extremist" religious views. 

The Geneva Mosque was inaugurated in 1978 by the former king of Saudi Arabia, Khaled Ben Abdulaziz. It is the biggest in Switzerland and can host 1,500 worshippers.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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