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French government calls for state of emergency extension

The French government has called for a three-month extension to its current state of emergency, which has been in place since the deadly Paris attacks. Human right groups have deemed the move as damaging to democracy.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Prime Minister Manuel Valls proposed the extension in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. While

the state of emergency remains in place, French police have wider power to carry out arrests and searches.

Authorities are also permitted to limit people's freedom of movement and vehicle traffic at specific times and places.

Under the current state of emergency, police carried out 3,289 raids that led to 571 judicial investigations - mostly for drugs or possession of unauthorized weapons.

In a written statement, President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday that the three-month extension, which now requires parliament's approval, is justified by the need to face the "terrorist threat."

Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said the terrorist threat in France and Europe is "still extremely high," adding that the "state of emergency is necessary."

"It has been useful and must continue to be," Le Foll said of the proposal that requires parliamentary approval to go into effect.

The state of emergency was first declared following the deadly Islamist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, in which 130 people died.

Human rights opposition

The state of emergency has already been extended once and is scheduled to end on February 26.

Many people, both inside and outside France, have been critical of the state of emergency, saying it goes too far and violates civil liberties.

Human rights organization Amnesty International stressed that "the state of emergency cannot be a permanent solution without undermining fundamental freedoms."

"We must not give up on our rights and freedom," France's Human Rights League said in a written statement. France's top administrative court last week upheld the current state of emergency, rejecting a request by the Human Rights League.

On Saturday,

around 70 non-governmental organizations called for demonstrations across France demanding an end

to the measures. The UN and the Council of Europe have also blasted the proposed extension.

Bill to 'neutralize' gunmen

A second government bill was also presented during Wednesday's cabinet meeting. The proposed legislation would allow French police officers to use their weapons to "neutralize someone who has just committed one or several murders and is likely to repeat these crimes."

In France, self-defense is currently the only legal vindication for shooting someone. The suggested amendment would permit police to shoot a gunman who has already fired at civilians and is deemed imminently likely to do again.

Under the proposal, it would also be easier for French police to carry out raids at night as well as searches of luggage and vehicles near "sensitive" sites and buildings.

ksb/sms (AP, dpa)

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