Interior Ministry confirms deportation of Catalan Muslim leader for “radical links”

Sovereignty supporter suspected by National Intelligence Center of being threat to security

The Interior Ministry on Thursday confirmed a deportation order issued against Noureddin Ziani, the president of the Union of Islamic Cultural Centers of Catalonia. Ziani had been working with the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia grouping, half of the ruling CiU nationalist coalition, to foment support among Muslim residents of Catalonia for independence in the region.

However, Spain's National Intelligence Center suspects that Ziani was working for Moroccan intelligence and posed a threat to national security. The Interior Ministry signed off on the deportation order based on his promotion of radical ideology.

Lawyers acting for Ziani, who has lived in Spain for 14 years, intend to fight his deportation but believe it will be impossible as they expect the order to be handed to their client as he boards a plane — most likely the last flight to Rabat from Barcelona leaving on Thursday night.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz sought to distance the order from the Catalan self-determination drive and said the decision stemmed from Ziani's links to "radical Salafism." Some Catalan politicians have viewed the move as an attack on the sovereignty drive, which Ziani concurred with on Tuesday at the inauguration of an Introduction to Catalonia course for imams and Muslim cultural leaders when the order was first issued. "I would be surprised it is because of anything else."

CiU Euro deputy Ramon Tremosa called the decision "unjustified and arbitrary" in the European Commission and warned it could contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.

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