Fundamentalist Arrested for Attacking French Imam in Tunisia

Mosque in Sousse, Tunis. Wikimedia Commons / Igor Turzhanskyy

Mosque in Sousse, Tunis.
Wikimedia Commons / Igor Turzhanskyy

Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis, was attacked by a fundamentalist while on vacation in Tunisia with his wife and two of his children last Sunday. He was assaulted near his hotel in a suburb of Tunis.

A formal complaint was filed on Tuesday, September 3, after the imam was hospitalized in Paris with two broken ribs and a pulmonary lesion. It is believed that he was targeted for his anti-fundamentalist position and his familiar connections with the Jewish community.

The attacker, a Franco-Tunisian by the name of Mohamed Karim Ben Khaled Ayed Khlifa, was charged with assault and defamation – specifically, verbal abuse, premeditated violence on account of religion, and threat of death. He received a suspended sentence of one month and sixteen days of prison.

Claude Bartolone, President of the National Assembly and PS deputy of Seine-Saint-Denis, condemned the “cowardly and shameful aggression”. Bartolone, a native of Tunisia, denounced those who contribute to a negative image of Tunisia and of Islam.

There may be two sides to the story however; the aggressor also intends to file a complaint against the imam. His lawyer, M. Pascal Garbarini, claims that his client recognized the imam and told him that he did not share his ideas, which irritated the imam. The aggressor contends that Chalghoulmi was going to attack him, but before the imam could push him the aggressor, who is a martial artist, simply immobilized him and threw him on the ground.

The imam’s lawyer, M. Samia Maktouf, believes the speedy conviction reflects the credibility of accusations of aggression. However, she regrets the rapid decision, and will file a complaint with the Superior courts of Bobigny, so that the young man will be judged more fairly.

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