June 9, 2015 / 3:04 PM / 2 years ago

Mother sues France over jihadi Bryan's departure

PARIS (Reuters) - The mother of a young Frenchman who converted to Islam and went to join jihadist fighters in Syria is suing the state for failing to stop him leaving the airport of his Riviera home town of Nice.

Bryan Dancona, from a Catholic family, left Nice two days after celebrating Christmas with relatives at the end of 2013, and is now in Syria, from where he occasionally telephones his mother Nadine, said her lawyer Samia Maktouf, who argued the case at a civil court in Paris on Tuesday.

Nadine Dancona is seeking 110,000 euros ($124,000) on the grounds border police at Nice airport should have stopped a minor - Bryan was 16 at the time - for questioning when he turned up with no personal belongings other than his identity papers for a flight to Turkey, a staging post for people traveling into war-torn Syria.

If she wins her case, the money will be donated to a group involved in combating terrorism, lawyer Maktouf said.

“What she’s trying to do is raise the awareness of the public authorities,” said Maktouf.

“What has happened to Bryan’s mother could happen to any mother. Her reward will be that other mothers are spared the suffering she has to endure.”

The French government adopted a plan in April 2014 aimed at preventing potential jihadist sympathizers before they leave by setting up an online service for families who suspect relatives are about to go and join these radical groups.

Reception centers were created for parents of potential jihadists. A year later, nearly 1,900 cases had been registered, of which a quarter were for minors and more than 40 percent for young girls, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said.

Efforts to detect would-be jihadists early have been stepped up after January attacks in which Islamist militants killed 17 people in France, mostly at the Charlie Hebdo journal and also at a Jewish shop.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Sunday 113 people who joined jihadi fighters in Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic State group now controls large swathes of territory, are believe to have been killed.

An interior ministry representative told the court hearing Bryan’s name was not on police records of suspects and a state magistrate argued that border police had no reason at the time to arrest the young man, now 18, as they had no formal request from his parents to stop him.

The court is due to rule in about two weeks.

Reporting by Chine Labbé, Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Dominic Evans

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