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Belgium court strips citizenship of man convicted of recruiting jihadists for Syria

A man found guilty in Belgium of recruiting jihadists for the war in Syria was stripped of his Belgian citizenship on Tuesday, October 23.

Fouad Belkacem, a 36-year-old born in Belgium to Moroccan parents, was sentenced in 2015 to 12 years in prison for heading “a terrorist group,” Sharia4Belgium, which sent jihadists to Syria.

An appeals court in Antwerp withdrew his citizenship on grounds “he seriously failed to meet his obligations as a Belgian citizen and posed a permanent threat to public security,” Belgian media reported.

Belkacem’s group recruited would-be jihadists to fight for Islamic State and other groups in Syria, prosecutors said in 2015.

Belkacem’s lawyer Liliane Verjauw denounced the decision by the court in the northern Dutch-speaking city, saying she would take further action to restore his nationality.

“Usually the second step is to try to expel him to Morocco,” Verjauw told AFP. “Yet his whole family is in Belgium, his wife and his four children are Belgian. He does not have a Moroccan passport.”

In December 2017, Malika el-Aroud, who served an eight-year prison term in Belgium for leading an al-Qaeda-linked terror group, was stripped of her Belgian citizenship.

The Moroccan-Belgian woman is the widow of a Tunisian jihadist who died in Afghanistan after having assassinated the Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who led the resistance to the Taliban.

Belgium’s immigration minister Theo Francken, who belongs to the Flemish nationalist N-VA party, welcomed the court’s “excellent” decision.

“This should happen automatically for terrorism convictions,” he said.

He recalled a draft law sponsored by a fellow N-VA politician supported automatically stripping citizenship for any Belgian who holds another nationality and is convicted of terrorism.

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With reporting from AFP

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