A Muslim engineer working for a firm subcontracted by French energy giant EDF has been banned from accessing French nuclear sites where he normally works, a move his lawyer says is “pure Islamophobia”.
The 29-year-old project manager had been granted access to nuclear installations as part of his job throughout 2012 and 2013. But in March 2014 the engineer, who cannot be named according to French law, had his pass to enter the Nogent-sur-Seine nuclear power station revoked without explanation.
The decision, made by the local administration, was covered by “Secret Defence” – which means the authorities are not required to publicly justify the decision.
“My client worked freely in French nuclear power stations for three years,” said his lawyer Sefen Guez Guez, who works with France’s Anti-Islamophobia Collective (CCIF), to FRANCE 24. “The question now is what changed? Overnight, he became a suspect person and no one has any idea why. That’s what we’re trying to get to the bottom of.”
As far as the lawyer is concerned, “considering the current atmosphere in France, his religious leanings cannot be ruled out” as a reason behind the ban.
In June 2014, Guez Guez successfully had the engineers ban revoked by an appeals court. The judge ruled that, “there were serious doubts over the legality of the decision”. But when the engineer turned up for work in July, he found he was once again refused access – this time by EDF – to his place of work.
Guez Guez launched a second appeal. The court is due to make its ruling at the end of August. “My client is confident,” he told FRANCE 24. “He has never done anything amiss at work, he is not facing any disciplinary issues with EDF and he has no criminal record.”
While he waits for the courts verdict, the engineer has been assigned to administrative work. “He’s been sidelined for no reason,” said Guez Guez. “It’s like Guantanamo. How can an employee in France be forbidden from doing his work without being able to defend himself and not even knowing what he has supposed to have done wrong?”
The case is not isolated an incident. In January, a court in Nice in south-eastern France twice overturned work bans imposed by the police on a Muslim worker at the city’s busy airport. The judge in that case ruled that the police decision “had no precise or justifiable material basis”.
See also “Un chef de projet nucléaire empêché dans ses fonctions sans aucune raison”, Collectif contre l’Islamophobie en France, 13 August 2014