Biel/Bienne. File photo: borisb17/Depositphotos
The city of Biel/Bienne is investigating a Libyan man who came to Switzerland as an asylum seeker nearly 20 years ago for giving sermons at a mosque in which he called for non-Muslims to be destroyed.
His alleged hate speech was reported by Swiss media including broadcaster SRF and the Tages-Anzeiger on Wednesday, and has caused particular consternation given they also revealed the unemployed man has been living on Swiss social welfare for years, receiving nearly 600,000 francs over the last 13 years.
The 64-year-old is an occasional volunteer preacher at the Ar'Rahman mosque in Biel/Bienne, said the paper. In a sermon recorded by SRF
and attributed to the Libyan, he asked Allah to “destroy the enemies of our religion, destroy the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Russians and the Shiites”.
The preacher came to Switzerland as a refugee in 1998 and was in 2001 granted asylum, claiming he was persecuted by the regime of Colonel Gadaffi. He now has a C permit granting permanent residence.
According to the Tages Anzeiger he has hardly worked during his time in Switzerland and has received nearly 600,000 francs in benefits over the past 13 years.
The town of Nidau, where the Libyan lives, confirmed to the media including news agency ATS that he was a long-term client of the social services and that it supported an “immediate investigation of the serious accusations”.
However it added that as a matter of principle social assistance is given irrespective of personal convictions “as long as these convictions are not relevant to criminal law”.
On Wednesday ATS reported
that the authorities in Biel/Bienne are considering making a criminal complaint against the preacher for his suspected hate speech.
On August 3rd the man's refugee status was withdrawn by the Swiss migration office (SEM) since he had several times travelled to Libya and had a Libyan passport, said ATS.
Since he no longer has the right to asylum, he is now subject to the provisions of the foreigners' law, meaning he could have his C permit withdrawn under certain conditions.
However he still has the right to appeal the change in his asylum status.