On Wednesday 14 October, elite forces of the French security police conducted a violent raid on the home of Idriss Sihamedi, founder and president of the charity BarkaCity. He was arrested and is being investigated for his twitter activity related to ‘moral harassment’ and ‘defamation’. No charges have been brought. On the night of Wednesday, approximately 200 people converged on the Police station where Sihamedi is being held to peacefully protest his arrest and detention.
The raid and arrest
In testimony obtained by CAGE from his lawyer and according to reports on social media, Sihamedi was violently beaten and forcefully handcuffed leaving visible injuries on his arms. His wife was not allowed to dress up and was handcuffed also. Their children were threatened and told to keep their hands in the air.
The police unit that conducted the raid is usually only deployed in hostage recovery situations and for protection of French embassies in conflict zones. It has also been used to quell violent prison riots. This is an alarming use of overwhelming force against lawful speech and activity by the head of a charity organisation.
The raid on Sihamedi’s home is part of a renewed crackdown by French police, following Macron’s Islamophobic speech in which he accused Muslims of ‘separatism’ – a far right trope. Raids took place against Muslim schools, funeral services and homes. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, yesterday announced that 73 mosques, private schools and workplaces had been closed since the beginning of the year.
Sihamedi has also been threatened recently by the Interior Minister due to questions he posed on twitter.
The charity – BarakaCity
BarakaCity has, since its inception in 2008, worked across the world on poverty alleviation and emergency relief, including in Togo, Burma, Bangladesh, Congo, Niger, Syria, Central African Republic and Mauritania. On one occasion, it raised €1m in 7 days for a clean water programme.
Following French state of emergency, it also emerged as a key advocate for Muslims rights in France.
Example of charitable projects in the African continent (turn on subtitles).
UPDATE: On the evening of Thursday 15/10/2020 Idriss Sihamedi was released under judicial supervision.
Please take urgent action to demand the release of Idriss Sihamedi
Share this action alert with your contacts and within your networks
- Contact the French embassy directly on twitter demanding the release of Idriss Sihamedi @FranceintheUK @AmbColonna [please use #IdrissSihamedi hashtag where possible]
- Write to the French Ambassador Catherine Colonna using email@example.com or French embassy, Catherine Colonna, 58 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7JT. Tel: [+44] (0) 20 70 73 1000
Please send a personalised letter using pointers about the case above and using the suggested format below:
I write to you about the arrest of Idriss Sihamedi….
He has been involved in charity and humanitarian work for more than a decade…
It is alarming that elite forces of French Police were used in these raids…
I urge you to release Idriss Sihamedi immediately and pending his release, he has prompt, regular and unrestricted access to his family and a lawyer of his choice
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)