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French National Assembly votes to extend state of emergency for fifth time

Deputies of France's National Assembly have given the green light to extend the state of emergency which has been in force since the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. Critics argue that the measure curtails freedoms.

France's National Assembly voted on Tuesday night 228 to 32 in favor of extending the country's state of emergency until July 15, 2017.

The extension, expected to be confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, will avoid the automatic interruption of the state of emergency which was due on December 22.

Under the emergency powers - which will also span the French presidential election in April - authorities are permitted, among other things, to carry out searches and house arrests without a judicial decision, to conduct identity checks, and to close down meeting rooms.

Longest state of emergency since Algerian War

Paris initially imposed the state of emergency after the attacks of November 13, 2015, in which 130 people were killed by Islamist terrorists. Parliament has already extended it four times. 

French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux

French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux defended the decision with a "major terror threat"

If senators follow the vote of the deputies on Thursday, which should only be a formality, France will have its longest period of uninterrupted state of emergency - 20 months - since the creation of the emergency powers during the Algerian War.

'Risk of major terror threat'

French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux justified the extension on Tuesday with a major terrorist threat.

Civil rights activists have criticized the measure, however, arguing that it limits freedoms. Critics have also raised doubts over the effectiveness of the special powers.

Former French Interior Minister and now Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve insisted on Saturday that the state of emergency had "fully proven its effectiveness."

According to the government, 90 people are currently living under house arrest. A total of 4,200 searches have already been carried out, resulting in 19 court cases relating to participation in a terrorist organization.

The vote on Tuesday night was prompted by Manuel Valls' resignation last week as prime minister as he seeks the Socialist nomination for president. By law, exceptional measures expire 15 days after a government changes. 

Incumbent President Francois Hollande has already said he would not run for a second term in office.

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ksb/kl (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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