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Paris Court to Rule on Muslim Baggage Handler Case

A Paris court is to rule Monday on the first of several appeals by Muslim baggage handlers barred from working at Charles de Gaulle Airport because of suspected links to radical groups. The Muslims complain of discrimination.

French security officials say they have barred about 43 mostly-Muslim baggage handlers from working at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, outside Paris. But a major labor union claims at least 70 Muslims have either been stripped of special passes, which allow them to access sensitive sites at the airport or have been warned they will soon lose them.

Security officials fear they may be linked to radical groups. Saturday, the French interior minister defended the decision to bar the workers, saying he could not accept people with radical practices working at the airport. Police interviewed the baggage handlers about their religious practices, among other things, before barring them.

Those who lost their passes - including this one interviewed on Europe 1 radio - argue they are not radical Muslims and that they are being unfairly targeted.

One man said he has never been criticized about his work or told that he represented a security threat.

One French trade union has filed charges of discrimination against the government, on behalf of some of the workers. So has the anti-discrimination group Movement against Racism and for Friendship among People.

The organization's head, Mouloud Aounit, says the charges appear unfounded for the three men it represents. He condemns what he calls a witch hunt against Muslims since the publication of a book, earlier this year, alleging threats to the airport posed by radical Muslim workers.

Security officials previously rebuffed allegations made in the book, "The Mosques of Roissy," penned by a far-right politician. But France's Interior Ministry subsequently shut down seven Islamic prayer rooms at Charles de Gaulle and another Paris airport.