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France dissolves Muslim NGO BarakaCity

The organisation has rejected accusations of inciting terrorism, says it will fight the decision 'until the very end'
French authorities have increased its crackdown of Muslim groups following the murder of teacher Samuel Paty who showed a picture of the Prophet Muhammad (AFP)

The French government dissolved on Wednesday French Muslim charity BarakaCity, government officials said, amid high tensions in the country following the murder of a teacher earlier this month. 

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed on Twitter that the NGO was shut down during a Council of Ministers meeting on Wednesday. 

Darmanin justified the move over the NGO's alleged ties to the "radical Islamist movement" and its "revelling in justifying terrorist acts" - accusations BarakaCity has rejected. 

Details outlined in the decree shared by Darmanin accused BarakaCity and its founder Idriss Sihamedi of "disseminating...hateful, discriminatory and violent ideas" via its social media accounts. 

The decree also brought up a 2016 televised interview in which Sihamedi declined to condemn the Islamic State (IS).

BarakaCity, which operates in at least 26 countries, said it was banned following years of "slander and appalling lies".

"The attached decree is a web of lies, and many of these claims have already been refuted by your intelligence agencies which proceeded to dismiss them!," the organisation wrote on Twitter.  

"The dissolution is based on defamation, we will fight until the end."

Sihamedi also took to Twitter to address Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and request asylum for himself and his staff, who he said had received death threats.

"We are taking the last measures in France (even if they are slim) and are doing everything we can to move our headquarters to a country that respects Muslims and vulnerable people," he added.

The decision to ban BarakaCity comes as French authorities have launched a crackdown following the murder of Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee after showing his students a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad during a class on freedom of expression. 

In addition to arrests, Darmanin and other French officials had announced plans to dissolve a number of organisations suspected of supporting Islamic State-like ideologies.

A number of French legal experts had cautioned last week that calls to dissolve such organisations would likely face legal challenges.

Speaking to France Inter radio on 20 October, legal expert on public freedoms Nicolas Hervieu cautioned that despite the “race” to announce firm measures, many such decisions could end up being contested in front of the State Council if they did not go through due process.

"We cannot dissolve an association simply because we don't agree with its opinions," he said. "A simple political animosity does not suffice. There has to be clear and direct calls for violence, hatred  and discrimination, and not in an indirect manner or by links here and there."

Anger has risen in a number of Arab and Muslim-majority countries over the measures taken by France in the wake of the 16 October attack, as Erdogan has led calls for a boycott of French products.