French MPs back tightening of country’s anti-terror laws

French MPs back tightening of country's anti-terror laws
Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP
French MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of tightening the country's anti-terror laws, including placing curbs on the movements of convicted radicals and using algorithms to detect online extremists.

Members of the National Assembly voted late Wednesday — by 87 in favour to 10 against — a bill which makes permanent several emergency measures that were introduced after the Paris attacks of November 2015.

Four lawmakers abstained from voting on the legislation, which had been in the pipeline for months but was sped up by President Emmanuel Macron’s government after a Tunisian man last month stabbed to death an employee at a police station near Paris.

The attack was the latest in a wave of assaults that has claimed over 250 lives since 2015 and which intensified again last autumn when a schoolteacher was beheaded for showing his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The bill before parliament gives the police the powers to limit the movements of people convicted of terrorism after their release from prison.

Scores of people convicted of terror offences or links during a wave of attacks in France starting in 2015 are due for release in the coming years, causing a high degree of nervousness among the authorities.

“Very dangerous people…will be getting out of prison and we don’t have the tools necessary to ensure they are monitored,” Yael Braun-Pivet, a lawmaker from Macron’s Republic on the Move party warned in a report last year.

The bill allows the authorities to keep some convicted terrorists under surveillance for up to two years after their release and to ban a suspected radical to attend an event deemed to present a terror threat.

It also permits the intelligence services to use algorithms to search for people who, for example, repeatedly search for terror propaganda.

The hard left France Unbowed party had fiercely opposed the legislation, seeing it as a threat to civil liberties.

“We’re drifting towards an increasingly authoritarian regime,” France Unbowed MP Ugo Bernalicis had warned, arguing that people who had not yet been convicted of a crime should not be denied basic freedoms.

The main opposition Republicans argued it was not tough enough, with rightwinger Eric Ciotti saying France had been left vulnerable to the “human bombs who will be getting out of prison”.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti defended the bill as striking a balance between the need to protect civil liberties and what he called the right’s push for a “French-style Guantanamo” system, in which terror suspects could be held for long periods without charge.


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