PARIS – A man convicted of a plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Paris is going on trial accused of violating the terms of his house arrest, hoping his case will help determine whether the control measures implemented by the French government but criticized by human rights groups as "Orwellian" are lawful.
Kamel Daoudi, who was convicted in 2005, has been living under house arrest since 2008 when he was released from jail. Under surveillance, he must report three times a day at a police station in western France near his current home, more than 400 kilometers away from his wife and children.
But he was late twice this summer and now faces three years in prison for his lack of punctuality.
His lawyer, Bruno Vinay, says he will ask the judge during Thursday's hearing to determine whether Daoudi's house arrest is legal. A decision is not expected immediately.
"The law states that anyone who is prosecuted for violating an administrative act may ask the criminal court to dismiss it on the grounds that it is illegal," Vinay told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I'm asking a judge, for the first time in 10 years, to rule on these procedures."
The 44-year-old Daoudi was stripped of his French citizenship while awaiting trial and ordered expelled to Algeria, the country of his birth, after he served six years in prison. But France has been repeatedly warned by Europe's top human rights court not to deport people to Algeria, which has a history of torture and other human rights abuses. Instead of deporting Daoudi, France imposed the indefinite house arrest on him.
According to Vinay, Daoudi was 50 minutes late at the police precinct once in June, then missed a curfew deadline by 31 minutes in July after he returned late to his hotel room in the town of Saint-Jean-d'Angely. Daoudi had spent the day with one of his children, who had come to visit him during a weekend. They returned late from a bike ride.
Whatever decision the judge hands down, Vinay says his client will remain under house arrest until Paris' administrative court issues a ruling in this case.
"It's a lengthy process. But in the meantime, we at least will have a judge's answer regarding (house arrests)," Vinay said. "This is very important."
Daoudi's case arose in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Charged alongside him with "terrorist association" was Djamel Beghal, the suspected ringleader of the plot that allegedly spanned five European countries. Daoudi and Beghal lived in the same apartment in the Paris suburb of Corbeille-Essonne. By mid-2001, both had made their way to Afghanistan, later telling judges they hoped to deepen their knowledge of Islam.
Daoudi says he has distanced himself from extremist circles, denying any hatred toward France, where he has lived since he was a child and where his wife and children were born. He has not been charged with a crime since leaving prison.
"He is very active on social networks, and one cannot say that he promotes ideas close to the radical Islamist movement," Vinay said. "He is rather very leftist."
France has been criticized by human rights organizations for the perceived unfair and disproportionate control measures implemented in the country as part of its strategy to fight extremism and prevent attacks.
"In a modern twist on the Orwellian 'thought crime,' control measures are imposed on the basis of what someone might do in the future, rather than on any criminal act committed," Amnesty International said. "Such "pre-crime" initiatives can have a dramatic impact on the lives of those affected and their families."
In the same statement, Amnesty International described Daoudi as "effectively trapped indefinitely."
Daoudi has been required to move repeatedly since he first was placed under house arrest. His French wife and children stayed behind when he was relocated for the fifth time. According to his lawyer, Daoudi was forced to move away because French authorities believed he could decide to target his neighbors, a couple of police officers.
"The neighbors launched a petition to have him removed and authorities ruled he could be dangerous," Vinay said. "There is no hope for him, no perspective. This case raises questions about the rule of law. Up to what point will we agree to twist individual freedoms in the name of the precautionary principle?"