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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ubu au pays d’ Hortefeux

by Émilie Rive

The Ludicrous Situation Created by Sarkozy’s Immigration Minister

Translated Saturday 26 January 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Court-room battle. The Bouches du Rhône prefect threatens to deport a lawyer from Mali who has been practicing in Aix en Provence for the past 28 years.

It was on October 1, 2007 that Abdoulaye Coulibaly, a lawyer admitted to the bar in Aix en Provence in southern France, received an order to get out of France within one month from the prefect of the Bouches du Rhône département. His appeal was heard yesterday (Jan. 21, 2008) by the court in Marseilles. The problem is that Abdoulaye Coulibaly is both a lawyer and a Mali national. He came to study law at the Aix en Provence law school in 1962, and he has been a practicing lawyer in Aix en Provence for the past 28 years. He has renewed the rental contract for his law offices for the past 19 years. Since 1980, every president of the bar has attested to his membership and practice. His passport has been renewed over the past 45 years. He has not been in hiding. Married to a Frenchwoman, he is the father of a French child who is now 21 years old. When the first law on the residency of foreigners was passed in 1974, he enquired about his status. The government administration answered that the law did not concern him. In 1989 he filed a request for naturalization which satisfied the prefecture’s investigations.

Yesterday afternoon, the president of the bar in Aix en Provence, Jean-François Leda, declared – according to the newspaper La Provence, which revealed the ignomious administrative procedure begun against Coulibaly on January 19 – “This is the world turned upside down. My worthy colleague has been practicing for 30 years; we’ve seen him pleading cases every single day. You’d think the prefecture has to make a quota. Nobody is safe any more.” The president of the bar had come to the administrative tribunal to defend Coulibaly and he hoped that the judges would show more common sense than the prefect. He was joined by a representative of the national council of the bar and by a representative of the French Lawyers Association.

Abdoulaye Coulibaly, for his part, can’t believe what is happening. Not knowing whether to laugh or to cry, he described the situation as ludicrous. In fact, as he has returned to Mali from time to time, the prefecture intends to investigate his bills and his receipts for the past ten years. It might also be that the prefecture is seeking to attack – in an unavowed, underhand way – a lawyer who has done his job as a defender of undocumented immigrants with a degree of success that the prefect cannot stomach. The case poses, once again, the question of a gridlocked law that says the nationals of “third-party countries” must not exercise their profession both in the country they have chosen to live in and in their native country.

Even the Competence and Talent Card introduced by the Minister for Immigration does not provide for this kind of “co-development.” In the end, the public prosecutor requested the abandonment of the procedure on the grounds of respect for family and private life, and the hearing was adjourned pending the court’s decision. Abdoulaye Coulibaly said “I am very moved,” at the end of the hearing. “I am very moved by the solidarity expressed by the lawyers and the journalists ... I am truly happy at the solidarity and the effort that everyone has made to defend me. But I remain deeply wounded by this proceeding and, above all, I fear greatly for all those who, unlike me, do not enjoy such support and who are threatened with deportation every day, without any regard for their lives.”

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