Mother sues France for letting son fly to Syria


Samia Maktouf, the lawyer for the family of a young boy who left France to join extremist fighters in Syria, talks to the media at the Administrative Court, in Paris. (AP)

The mother of a young Frenchman who converted to Islam and went to join armed fighters in Syria is suing the state for failing to stop him from leaving the airport in Nice, his hometown.

Bryan Dancona, from a Catholic family, left Nice two days after celebrating Christmas with relatives at the end of 2013 and is now in Syria and he occasionally telephones his mother Nadine from there, according to her lawyer Samia Maktouf, who argued the case at a civil court in Paris on Tuesday.

Nadine Dancona is seeking 110,000 euros ($124,000) on the grounds that border police at the Nice airport should have stopped a minor — Bryan was 16 at the time — for questioning when he turned up with no personal belongings other than his identity papers and got on a flight to Turkey, a staging post for people traveling into war-torn Syria.

If she wins her case, the money will be donated to a group involved in combating terrorism, Maktouf said.

“What she’s trying to do is raise the awareness of the public authorities,” Maktouf said. “What has happened to Bryan’s mother could happen to any mother. Her reward will be that other mothers are spared the suffering she has to endure.”

The French government adopted a plan in April 2014 aimed at preventing potential recruits from joining armed groups in Syria by setting up an online service for families who suspect that their relatives are about to leave.

Reception centers were created for parents. A year later, nearly 1,900 cases had been registered, of which a quarter were for minors and more than 40 percent for young girls, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said.

Efforts to detect would-be fighters early have been stepped up after the January attacks in which 17 people in France were killed, mostly at the Charlie Hebdo journal and also at a Jewish shop.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Sunday 113 people who joined fighters in Syria and Iraq, where the armed group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant now controls large swathes of territory, are believe to have been killed.

An interior ministry representative told the court hearing that Bryan’s name was not on police records of suspects and a state magistrate argued that border police had no reason at the time to arrest the young man, now 18, as they had no formal request from his parents to stop him.

The court is due to rule in about two weeks.


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