Man surrenders to Quebec police after Muslim centre vandalized
Photos show the Muslim centre in Sept-Iles was ransacked (photo: Nizar Aouini / Facebook)
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, October 26, 2016 10:18AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 26, 2016 2:21PM EDT
Alcohol, not hate, fuelled a break-in and extensive vandalism at a Muslim centre in a remote part of Quebec, say provincial police.
"It's the first business he (the accused) saw after he left the bar," said Sgt. Jean Tremblay, adding police believe the suspect was very inebriated.
Authorities spoke with the 38-year-old suspect and said they don't believe the vandalism in Sept-Iles, which occurred at around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, was a hate crime.
The man turned himself in that afternoon after the incident at the centre, which was expected to open in the coming weeks.
Nizar Aouini, a member of the local Muslim community, said he felt moved by the support he has received from people in the town, which is about 900 kilometres northeast of Montreal on the province's upper north shore.
Photos posted by Aouini on Facebook showed plants strewn around the floor of the centre, a destroyed bookshelf and a toppled computer screen.
The centre's director, Ben Rouine, says the centre was set to open in a few weeks.
"It'll be a few weeks later, that's OK, we'll try to open as soon as possible," Rouine said in an interview. "We will get past this."
It's the third time the centre has been struck by vandals since construction began in 2013, but only one of the two other incidents was officially reported to police, Rouine said.
He said the centre's primary users would be about 15 Muslim families living in the area.
Rouine, a caterer and restaurant owner who has lived in Sept-Iles for 36 years, said he won't generalize over an isolated act.
"I feel sad for him, he went there, it's someone I imagine needs help," Rouine said of the accused. "He turned himself in and that's a good gesture."
The suspect was released on a promise to appear in court at a later date.
Rouine, a semi-retired chef, said he feels widespread support from local residents and that the Muslim community wants to help the accused so he doesn't reoffend.
Tremblay said the accused could face charges of break-and-enter and mischief of more than $5,000.