Geneva Mosque rebuffs French imam charges

The Geneva Mosque is Switzerland's largest Keystone
This content was published on November 19, 2015 - 18:04 and agencies

Management at the Geneva Mosque has defended two imams accused of featuring on a French police list of individuals who represent a threat. A local newspaper that made the accusations said the mosque had also allowed a group of young extremists to attend, two of whom later allegedly travelled to Syria.

“No proof exists of the existence of ‘S’ files” on two imams working at the Petit-Saconnex mosque, the Fondation Culturelle Islamique de Genève, which manages the place of worship, said in a statement on Wednesday.

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 dangerousness.

An article published in the Tribune de Genève on August 28 claimed that the two French preachers had been subject to a Fiche S since at least 2012. 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 reported that a group of around 20 young extremists had attended the mosque for several months, two of whom allegedly travelled to Syria.

The statement made by the mosque’s management response said one of the imams had written to a French prosecutor in charge of terrorism to clarify the accusations. It said the prosecutor had replied that there was “no motive or legal framework” to warrant examining the case. The foundation added that it had no indication of any problem when it took on the two preachers and that it is “satisfied with their work”.

In its statement the foundation, which has close ties to Saudi Arabia, also strongly condemned terrorism and extremism and outlined various 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. The foundation added it had handed over the necessary paperwork to the cantonal body overseeing religious organisations to improve transparency concerning its finances and donors.

Inaugurated in 1978, the Geneva Mosque is the biggest in Switzerland and can host 1,500 worshippers.

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