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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Punishment to fit the crime?

Azedine Berkane, held in France for the stabbing of Bertrand Delanöe, the homosexual Mayor of Paris, in October this year, may be refused a trial on the grounds that he is a nutter.

Two psychiatrists have concluded that the Islamic fundamentalist who was assumed to have acted in accordance with Islamic hatred of homosexuality, is in fact suffering from a psychosis which often leads to violent behaviour “within a religious context”.

A second opinion is expected before prosecutors have to decided whether Mr Berkhane, 39 years old unemployed and without fixed abode, can be considered mentally fit to stand trial for attempted murder.

In fairness to the psychiatrists, Mr Berkhane has a history of mental illness, and has allegedly claimed that he was being pursued by a “satanic cult”. In 2001, Mr Berkhane was a voluntary patient at a psychiatric hospital in the Paris suburb of St Denis. In March 2002, he was reported missing to police by his mother.

If the French authorities deal with homophobic attacks by Muslims by shaking their heads, saying “poor chap, he’s off his rocker”, locking them up indefinitely, and giving them drugs or electroshock treatment, it doesn’t seem a very glorious path for a young Mudjaheddin to follow. Might this be better than the death penalty? Or is it too cruel?

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