- Brice Hortefeux - France - Islam - Islamic veil
Suspected polygamist accused of domestic violence
In fresh allegations, the French Muslim man suspected of polygamy and welfare fraud has been accused of beating at least one of his female companions and keeping his children "locked away".
Lies Hebbadj, a French Muslim butcher suspected of polygamy, has been accused of domestic violence and mistreating his children, the French interior minister, Brice Hortefeux, told French lawmakers on Wednesday.
Police sources said Hebbadj’s father-in-law filed a complaint on Monday, saying his daughter was “beaten” by her husband and their children were kept “locked away”. He also reported having “little or almost no contact” with his daughter.
Hebbadj, an Algerian-born 35-year-old butcher in France’s north-western city of Nantes, has been at the centre of a political storm over alleged polygamy and welfare fraud.
According to Hortefeux, Hebbadj lives with four women who have borne him 12 children, and each wife receives “single parent” welfare benefits.
Hortefeux last Saturday called for Hebbadj’s French passport to be removed, saying polygamy is “not welcome in France”.
The controversy began last week, when one of Hebbadj’s companions complained that she had been fined 22 euros for driving while wearing her niqab full-face veil, in Nantes.
Police said her niqab restricted her view so she could not drive safely. The woman refused to pay the fine, sparking an investigation that led to revelations about Hebbadj’s controversial living arrangements.
Polygamy and fraud
Local state prosecutors have asked police to look into "suspicions of polygamous relations" and "questions about social benefits thought to have been paid to several women" linked to Hebbadj, the prosecutor's office said.
Hebbadj's lawyer, Franck Boezec, denied the accusations against his client, saying there was "neither polygamy nor social security fraud" and that the charges made "by a certain number of ministers" were "completely fanciful".
Hebbadj also called a news conference on Monday to contend that, while he has several mistresses, he had not engaged in polygamy, which is illegal in France.
"As far as I know," said Hebbadj. "it is not forbidden to have mistresses in France, nor is it forbidden under Islam. Maybe under the Christian faith, but not in France."
He added that "if you lose your French nationality for having mistresses, then a lot of French men would have to be stripped of their citizenship."
The controversy over Hebbadj and his wife comes as the government prepares legislation to ban the wearing of the full-face veil. A draft law is to be presented to ministers on May 19.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has said the full veil, known as the burqa or the niqab, is not welcome in France, calling it an affront to French values that denigrates women.