France to give Paris supermarket siege hero citizenship

2015-01-16 01:43:07 GMT2015-01-16 09:43:07(Beijing Time)  Agencies
Paris Supermarket Hero Given CitizenshipParis Supermarket Hero Given Citizenship

The Malian who helped hostages at a Jewish supermarket to hide during last week's terror attacks in Paris is to be made a citizen of France.

It comes after 220,000 people signed an online petition calling for Lassana Bathily to be given a French passport and the Legion d'honneur, the country's highest honour.

The decision to award him citizenship was announced by France's interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who said he would preside over the ceremony next Tuesday.

Mr Bathily, a practising Muslim who has lived in France since 2006, had applied for French nationality last July.

The 24-year-old has been widely praised for his actions in saving people who would otherwise have been taken captive by terrorist Amedy Coulibaly, who was later shot dead by police.

As the siege at the Hypercacher store in eastern Paris began, Mr Bathily, an employee, ushered a group of trapped customers into a cold storage room , shutting off the refrigeration system.

"I heard shots and I saw my colleagues and clients running down," he recalled later. "I told them 'Come, come,' (and) got them into the freezer."

Mr Bathily proposed helping them escape through the delivery lift, but when no-one wanted to take the risk he fled alone.

Once outside he flagged down police and gave them information on the layout of the store that was used in the assault which ended the siege.

Mr Bathily has said he only did what most other people would have done under the circumstances.

"We're brothers. It's not a question of Jews, Christians or Muslims," he told French news channel BFMTV. "We're all in the same boat, and we have to help one another to get out of this crisis."

Four people were killed in the siege, which came days after the massacre at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

That attack was carried out by brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, who died in an exchange of gunfire with police as they ran from a printing warehouse northeast of Paris.

President Francois Hollande on Thursday told Muslims that France respected them and their religion but would not compromise its commitment to freedom and democracy.

Speaking at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris, he said Muslims were "the first victims of fanaticism, fundamentalism and intolerance".

"Islam is compatible with democracy and we should refuse any confusion (about this)," he added.

New copies of the so-called survivor's issue of Charlie Hebdo, which depicts the Prophet Mohammed crying on the cover, sold out again on Thursday after copies flew off the shelves the previous day.

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