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January 15, 2015 1:27 pm

Muslim Hero of HyperCacher Siege to Receive French Citizenship

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Lassana Bathily, the Malian Muslim of the HyperCacher siege in Paris, is to receive French citizenship. Photo: change.org

Lassana Bathily, the Malian national who rescued 15 people trapped in the terror siege at the HyperCacher supermarket last Friday, is to receive French citizenship, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Thursday  – but his admirers want the government to go further, and grant him France’s highest award.

Bathily, who has lived in France since 2006, applied for French citizenship in July last year and worked as an assistant at the HyperCacher market. Last Friday, when Islamist terrorist Amedy Coulibaly seized the store in a bid to secure the freedom of Charlie Hebdo gunmen Said and Cherif Kouachi, who were pinned down by French police in a separate siege, Bathily ushered terrified customers into a basement storeroom, telling them to remain calm and keep silent.

Bathily then made contact with the police outside by sneaking out of the building through a fire escape. Thinking that he was an accomplice of Coulibaly, Bathily was seized by the police, who placed him in handcuffs for the next 90 minutes before he convinced them that he was trying to assist the hostages. Thanks to the information about the store’s layout which Bathily provided, police were able to end the siege without further endangering the hostages.

Bathily later reflected, “We are brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, of Christians or of Muslims. We’re all in the same boat, we have to help each other to get out of this crisis.”

A petition urging the French government to grant Bathily citizenship and bestow upon him the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest award, had garnered 300,000 signatures by Thursday morning. “This ordinary hero is a role model,” the petition declared. “An undocumented citizen when he first arrived in France, he was finally welcomed in a Jewish store, and he saved fifteen Jewish people. Fifteen people. Simply.”

Responding to the news that Bathily is to receive French citizenship, Thiaba Bruni, the organizer of the petition, said that “this is a first victory: we must keep campaigning so that Lassana receives the Legion of Honor, an award that honors the most deserving citizens, known or unknown.”

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