Is Tariq Ramadan going to get a fair trial in France?

The French justice system’s handling of the pre-trial conditions case has been dogged by controversy, allegations of denial of justice, and violation of due process

Alain Gabon's picture

Since 2 February, Tariq Ramadan, one of Europe’s most influential Muslim intellectuals, has been in preventive detention and solitary confinement at Fleury-Mérogis prison in France, following rape charges by two women, which he fully denies.

The issues raised here have nothing to do with Ramadan’s alleged guilt or presumed innocence. These are serious charges and Ramadan should face them in court. Those who claim otherwise, on either side of this supercharged case, can only do so out of bad faith, prejudice or disingenuousness.

That being said, the French justice system’s handling of the pre-trial conditions in the case has been dogged by controversy, allegations of denial of justice, and violation of due process.

The degree to which the system has deviated from normal practice has shocked even Ramadan’s critics such as the French attorney Régis de Castelnau who described the denial of due process as “severe and constant”.

Legal problems

The first issue was the refusal to grant bail and the decision to detain Ramadan in custody. Ramadan’s bail request was never considered. Incarceration is usually a measure of last resort when other options such as  house arrest, electronic bracelet, or reporting to a police station are not available or realistic.

The judges argued that if free, Ramadan would pressure his accusers into dropping their claims. This is absurd. It would take a world-class imbecile to attempt to do this in this case, knowing how such a course of action could be used against him.

The second argument used was flight risk. Ramadan is a Swiss citizen. There is no evidence that Ramadan would flee to a country with whom the EU has no extradition treaty. Ramadan has co-operated fully with the French system and surrendered himself voluntarily to the court.

Among the dozens of similar cases of rape, many with formal charges, that have emerged in France (and elsewhere) in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Ramadan is the only one who has been jailed like this

Ramadan has not just been kept in custody. He has been kept in solitary confinement. His wife and children have been denied rights to visit him. This constituted another measure for which the judges have provided no explanation.

– Dr Alain Gabon is an associate professor of French studies based in the United States and the head of the French Department at Wesleyan University. He has written numerous papers and articles on contemporary France and on Islam in Europe and throughout the world for academic journals and think tanks, including Britain’s Cordoba Foundation and mainstream media outlets, such as Saphirnews and Les cahiers de l’Islam. His essay entitled ‘Radicalisation islamiste et menace djihadiste en Occident: le double mythe’ appeared in a September 2016 Cordoba Foundation publication.

Opinions expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.


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