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France

French parliament adopts controversial anti-terror bill

© CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP | The French Senate.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-18

The French parliament on Wednesday adopted a tough new anti-terrorism bill that gives authorities vastly expanded powers to search homes, restrict movement and close places of worship.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate after modifications to address concerns about civil liberties, makes permanent some of the exceptional measures contained in the state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 Paris attacks.

The emergency laws expire on November 1.

The most punitive elements of the new bill will be reviewed annually by parliament and are scheduled to lapse at the end of 2020.

House arrest

The interior minister can place suspected jihadist sympathisers who are not accused of a specific crime under a loose form of house arrest.

Under the state of emergency, the individual was confined to his or her home.

The "individual surveillance measures" contained in the bill, which can last up to a year, allow the individuals to go beyond their front door but they must remain with the boundaries of their town or city.

If they want to go further they must wear an electronic bracelet.

They have 48 hours to appeal the restrictions to a judge and must report to the police once a day.

Home searches

A local police chief can ask a judge for a warrant to search -- the bill uses the term "visit" -- the homes of people with suspected terror links.

The person whose home is searched can be held for four hours, during which documents, data and objects can be seized.

Places of worship

The top government official in each of France's regions can order the closure of mosques, churches or other places of worship for six months if preachers are found to have incited attacks or glorified terrorism.

Investigators will not be required to provide proof of radical preaching or writings. The venue can be closed on the basis of the "ideas and theories" circulated among devotees.

The management of the religious site will have 48 hours to appeal the closure. Non-compliance will carry a three-year prison sentence and fine of 45,000 euros ($53,000).

Security zones

The authorities can seal off areas around a place or an event, such as a rally or a concert, that they deem vulnerable to attack.

People wanting to enter the area will be subjected to searches by the police or private security guards.

Border checks

The police will have more powers to carry out stop-and-search operations in border areas -- one of the most controversial elements of the bill which rights groups fear will be used mainly against migrants and Muslims.

Under the rules of the visa-free Schengen area, France can already carry out spot identity checks in border areas as well as at international airports, ports and train stations.

The bill expands that to include the areas around train stations as well as a swathe of territory around international ports and airports, up to 10 kilometres (six miles).

Radicalised public servants

A civil servant working in an area related to security or defence can be forced to change jobs or even be dismissed from the public service if he or she is found to hold radical opinions.

Soldiers can be discharged on similar grounds.

Wiretapping

The intelligence agencies can continue to use algorithms to tap into phone and email communications to try to detect suspicious behaviour.

The bill also transposes into French law an EU directive allowing security services to access the travel data of airline passengers.

(AFP)

Date created : 2017-10-18

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