Seven terror plots have so far been foiled in France since the start of the year, France's new Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said Thursday, as the lower house voted to extend the country's state of emergency for what may be the final time.
"Since the start of the year we've stopped seven plots that could have caused many deaths," Collomb told the CNews television channel.
A plot that was thwarted in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille in April, just a week before the presidential election, could have had "dreadful" consequences, he said.
Collomb also said that France will confiscate weapons from about 100 people who are on a watchlist for potential Islamist militants. The move comes more than two weeks after state prosecutors said a suspect behind a failed car ramming attack on the Champs-Élysées had been inspired by the Islamic State group and was a member of a gun club.
France first granted the police special powers in the wake of multiple deadly terrorist attacks over the past two and a half years. Former president François Hollande declared a state of emergency in November 2015, shortly after jihadists killed 130 people in simultaneous attacks across the Paris area.
Thursday's vote marks the sixth time the state of emergency has been extended by French lawmakers – and it may be the last. President Emmanuel Macron vowed in May to end the state of emergency sometime this autumn while introducing a controversial new security law that would make many of its emergency measures permanent.
Warrant-less property searches and house arrests, two of the measures currently authorised under state of emergency powers, could become a permanent part of policing practices under the new bill.
The proposed law would also make it easier to ban protest marches, shut down places of worship suspected of advocating extremist views and force people under house arrest to give police access to their electronic devices.
Police would be able to implement these measures without the oversight of a judge, with such authority transferred to the police prefecture and the interior ministry.
Twelve human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have called on lawmakers to drop the state of emergency and reject the new law. Amnesty has accused French authorities of suppressing protests and dissent under the expanded police powers. Since the state of emergency was declared, authorities have issued 155 decrees prohibiting public gatherings and introduced 639 measures preventing specific individuals from taking part in demonstrations, mostly protests against labour reforms, Amnesty said.
France's League of Human Rights has also weighed in, rejecting the argument that the proposed bill would only affect suspected terrorists and saying the state of emergency has already been exploited by Hollande's government to curtail union activity.
“These measures would trample individual and shared liberties and would lead us towards an authoritarian state,” the League said in a statement on its website. “Far from relating only to terrorist acts, these measures would be applied to a wide range of offences. Anyone could become a victim of arbitrary decisions.”
Collomb confirmed that Macron’s proposed law would enable the government to close down mosques suspected of radicalisation for six months at a time, on a rolling basis.
"Today there are three [mosques] that we want to close ... since the start of the state of emergency we've closed 16," he said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2017-07-06