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Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK
French imam row goes to top court
Abdelkader Bouziane being expelled from France last Wednesday
Mr Bouziane was described as "medieval" by moderate Muslims
The French interior ministry has said it will appeal against a court decision to cancel the deportation of a controversial Muslim preacher.

A regional court in the city of Lyon on Monday upheld Friday's ruling that Abdelkader Bouziane, who was deported on Wednesday, could return to France.

The government had promised to supply evidence to justify the deportation.

Mr Bouziane, 52, was criticised over an interview in which he condoned beating and stoning unfaithful wives.

The remarks drew criticism from local politicians and moderate Muslims, who described the preachings as "medieval".

Correspondents say the decision is a setback for the new Interior Minister, Dominique de Villepin, who had argued that the deportation was legal on the grounds that the imam used his mosque to advocate violence.

Mr Bouziane had lived in France for 25 years on a renewable residency permit and reportedly has 16 children there.

He has not been heard of since he left France, heading for his native Algeria.

Evidence 'insufficient'

The government will now ask the highest administrative court, the State Council, to rule on the case.

On Friday a lower court suspended the order temporarily, expressing "serious doubt" about its legality.

Mr Bouziane's lawyer argued that his expulsion "violated several fundamental liberties".

The government presented new information, including security reports allegedly linking Mr Bouziane to radical Islamists in Afghanistan, Yemen, Chechnya and Germany.

But this appears not to have been sufficient to sway the lower court, which maintained that the deportation was illegal.

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