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France Approves Restrictive Anti-terrorism Law

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The French parliament has approved a new controversial anti-terrorism law, replacing the soon-to-expire two-year state of emergency. The new legislation has prompted fears it will severely limit civil liberties.

French parliament

The French senate approved the new anti-terrorism law on its second reading on Wednesday. The new law, set to increase law enforcement powers in the fight against terrorism, was supported by 244 senators, with only 22 voting against it. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the lower chamber of parliament earlier in October.

The state of emergency was imposed in France to combat terrorism in the wake of the deadly 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, and has been extended six times since. It is set to finally expire on November 1.

Its key points include allowing the authorities to search homes of those suspected of terrorist links, while holding them for up to four hours and seizing data, items and documents. It also allows the authorities to confine suspects to their town or city for up to a year and have them report to police every day. Any movement beyond that requires them to wear a tracking bracelet.

Top regional officials will be allowed to shut down places of worship for up to six months, if they deem preachers have incited attacks or glorified terrorism. This can be done without any hard proof obtained by police, but simply on the basis of "ideas and theories" shared by the preachers' devotees.

Police are also granted the authority to stop and search people at vulnerable areas such as borders, train stations and airports.

Ahead of the parliamentary vote, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted 500 law enforcement officers including police, gendarmes, prefects, and other officials at the Elysees Palace. Macron defended the new law and mulled a new nationwide anti-radicalization plan.

"The first mission of the state is to protect our fellow citizens and ensure the security of the territory... We have to adapt our organization, our action," he said.

The plan includes hiring 10,000 more police officers and gendarmes, as well as supplying them with technology suitable for the "smartphone era." He also promised to implement stricter measures to more efficiently deport migrants with "no legal right" to stay in France.

"We don't welcome people well, our procedures are too long, we don't integrate people properly and neither do we send enough people back," Macron told the law enforcement officers.

The new anti-terrorism law has repeatedly drawn concern over human rights issues. UN human rights experts urged France to comply with "its international human rights obligations," worrying the bill would "incorporate into ordinary law several restrictions on civil liberties currently in place under France's state of emergency."

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

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