Lassana Bathily will become a French citizen next week, government says
The Muslim hid customers of a Paris kosher market in a walk-in freezer
His actions spurred adoring headlines in France, petitions to have him honored
Lassana Bathily risked his own life to help save others, a Muslim who protected Jews in the face of an armed terrorist.
Now the French government is helping out Bathily – by making him a citizen.
The Malian native’s citizenship application, which he filed in July, will be expedited, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced Thursday. Cazeneuve will conduct Bathily’s citizenship ceremony himself Tuesday.
This event will add to what has been an emotional few weeks for Bathily, starting with his heroic actions Friday, after a gunman burst in while he was working at the kosher Hyper Cacher grocery store near Paris’ Porte de Vincennes.
The man took several people hostage but not the 15 whom Bathily led downstairs into a walk-in freezer. Bathily, who describes himself as a “practicing Muslim,” told CNN affiliate BFMTV he switched off the freezer, turned off the lights and told everyone to stay calm.
“I’m the one (who) is going to go out,” he reportedly told them. “I took the elevator and went upstairs.”
Bathily: Hostages ‘congratulated me’
Bathily told BFMTV that he went up after the hostage-taker – whom authorities have identified as Amedy Coulibaly – “asked us to all come upstairs.”
If they didn’t? “Otherwise, he would kill everyone who was downstairs,” the young man said.
So Bathily did go upstairs, taking a freight elevator. But he didn’t go toward Coulibaly. Instead, he ran outside. Police apprehended Bathily there, and he told them the location of the freezer and gave details about those inside.
“When [the hostages] came out, they congratulated me,” Bathily told BFMTV.
That’s because his actions might have saved their lives. Four people, plus the gunman, ended up being killed by the time the hostage situation ended.
Celebrated online: ‘You are blessed’
French media quickly ran with the story of Bathily, with L’Express newspaper proclaiming “Lassana Bathily, Malian Muslim, hero of the hostage situation in Vincennes.”
People around the world also cheered Bathily, with about 300,000 signing a Change.org petition asking that he be given the Legion d’Honneur, a highly prestigious award given to those who done exceptional things for France.
“Even in darkness and desolation, there’s always a ray of light somewhere,” wrote the petition’s creator, Thiaba Bruni. “Such is the case with Lassana Bathily.”
Such positive recognition was also all over Facebook, where a man who claimed to be Bathily’s cousin, Abdoul Bathily, posted, “Lass Bathily, you showed courage yesterday. The rest of the world would not have done it.”
Another person wrote, “I have no words to express my pride in you. You put your life in danger to save others. God saw all of it, and his mercy will be without fault. You are blessed in the eyes of humanity.”
CNN’s Alanne Orjoux contributed to this report.