A curious story is getting attention in France. Two Japanese winemakers who have been living in Banyuls-sur-Mer since 2016 were notified that they would have to leave France due to a lack of financial resources. Rie Shoji, 42, and Hirofumi Shoji, 38, had arrived there in 2011 with the idea of becoming winemakers. First they worked as farm workers and wine merchants in Bordeaux and Burgundy, and studied and received degrees in farm management and oenology. In 2016, they invested 150,000 euros ($170,000) to buy land. Their plan was to produce a natural, organic wine, in an area -- the eastern Pyrenees -- where everything is done by hand.
Their first wine, named Pedres Blanques, appeared in 2017, and was considered a "revelation". It is already on the wine list of many famous restaurants in France and Spain. "Its price is skyrocketing," said their lawyer, Jean Codognès, "and the prefecture is saying that their wine has no future. The government is not thinking straight".
The same government that wants to deport Japanese investors has accepted 100,000 migrants from Sub-Saharan and Northern Africa just in 2017, most of them with no skills and no money.
The same government that wants to deport the Japanese creators of a spectacular new wine in France is about to release from prison an Al Qaeda terrorist, Djamel Beghal, linked to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015.
On August 5, 2018, Djamel Beghal, 52, will reach the end of his combined prison sentences for a series of crimes that include planning to blow up the American Embassy in Paris. France wants to deport Beghal to Algeria the day he leaves Vezin prison, in Rennes. Beghal has an Algerian passport, but his lawyers insist that his life would be in danger if he returned to the country where he was born. Until now, the Algerian government has not replied to French government requests. On June 13, Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet said in a radio interview, "It is not yet assured that [the Algerian government] will welcome Beghal, who is no longer a French citizen..." What will happen if Algeria does not want him? "He will be settled under house arrest."
According to a new anti-terrorism law adopted in 2017, "house arrest" can be expanded to encompass a district in a city or enlarged to cover the city of residence, in order to ensure greater freedom for a terrorist to enjoy a work life and a family life.
Djamel Beghal's is not an isolated case. From now to the end of 2019, the justice minister announced, France is poised to release 50 Islamic terrorists and 450 radicalized prisoners from their cells. "450 radicalized prisoners will be out of prison by 2019, plus 50 Islamic terrorists," she said to the news channel BFMTV.
"There will be 20 Islamic terrorists who will leave prison this year and 30 other Islamic terrorists next year. 450 radicalized prisoners will get out of prison from now to 2019. Among them, we find simple criminals who have been radicalized during their jail-time ...
"Of course, I believe that everything is implemented to protect our fellow citizens. We are really determined to track these people. The creation of a national bureau to centralize information about the most dangerous is an effective answer."
We have to remember that the 19-year-old ISIS jihadist who slit the throat of a priest, Father Jacques Hamel, in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray had been under surveillance and was being monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet.
The ISIS jihadist who slit the throat Father Jacques Hamel (left), in his church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray (right) on July 26, 2016 had been under surveillance and was being monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet.
In January 2018, the same, much-too-kind justice minister, Nicole Belloubet said publicly that France would intervene if a French jihadist were sentenced to death in Syria or Iraq. "The French state," she said, "would intervene, by negotiating with the other state in question." That announcement took place just after that an Iraqi court condemned a German woman to death by hanging after finding her guilty of belonging to ISIS -- the first such sentencing involving a European woman. France and the European Union have a long-standing policy against capital punishment and all member states have abandoned the practice.
In fact, the French officials display mixed feelings about how ISIS jihadists should be dealt with. Publicly, they extend a hand to pull jihadists into French society. But in reality, they seem, not surprisingly, to be afraid of these types of citizens. In May 2017, the Wall Street Journal published an investigation claiming that French special forces had provided a hit list to Iraqi forces of around 30 men who were "identified as high value targets". Former French President François Hollande confirmed that he personally had authorized at least four killings of "high value targets" by special forces in what are known as "homicide" operations in France.
According to figures released by the government in November 2017, about 1,700 French Muslims joined ISIS in Iraq and Syrian since 2014. At least 278 died and 302 returned to France, including 66 women and 58 minors. The others were captured in Syria or Iraq, killed in the fighting or fled to the remaining IS-held territories or other jihadist fires (in Libya in particular).
According to a government source, who requested anonymity, however, French officials are beginning to be particularly concerned about a possible connection between radicalized Muslims liberated from prison and jihadists coming back from Syria and Iraq to France on one side, and Muslim gangs from the suburbs on the other side. "Suburbs" in France have come to mean "no-go zones" -- areas that are mainly Muslim, and controlled by Salafists and drug dealers. According to the source:
"We know for sure that a significant flow of weapons is flooding into the suburbs. Most of these weapons [Kalashnikovs, Uzis] were for many years in the hands of drug dealers. The news is that those people are now using these weapons to control their territory more tightly."
In May 2018, a video showing gang members dressed in black and shooting Kalashnikovs at members of other gangs and at the police went viral on social networks. According to multiple sources, "Three to seven million illegal weapons are in circulation in France".
"We fear a possible connection between Muslim gangs from the suburbs and jihadists soon to be liberated on one hand, and jihadists coming back from war in Iraq on the other, " said the source. " We lack information. The question is not the threat, the question is our capacity to fight back. At present, we have no preparation or capacity to strike back at such a possible alliance".
To understand the danger, we have to make a simple calculation, says the source:
"We have 400 'suburbs' in France. They represent five million people, mainly Muslim. Ninety percent of this population are working hard to survive. But 10% -- half a million people -- are working for the Salafists or the drug dealers. If 10% of that 10% make an alliance with jihadis, it represents an army of 50,000 soldiers. The police are not able to fight an internal enemy like that ".
Yves Mamou, author and journalist, based in France, worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde. He is completing a book, "Collaborators and Useful Idiots of Islamism in France," to be published in 2018.