French PM defends state of emergency extension, new powers | News | DW | 05.02.2016
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French PM defends state of emergency extension, new powers

Prime Minister Valls said France's terror threat is "here to last." Amid calls to extend special police powers, lawmakers heard that hundreds of arrests had been made since the November Paris terror attacks.

French politicians appeared split over government plans to extend emergency powers until May and to amend the constitution to strip French citizenship from those convicted of terrorism.

The lower house of parliament debated the controversial plans on Friday in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead in November.

Under the proposals, those convicted of crimes constituting a "serious attack on the life of the nation" could be stripped of their French citizenship.

Most of the attackers in the November 13 coordinated assaults held French or Belgian citizenship, and some also Moroccan nationals.

Contentious plans

The plans have divided French President François Hollande's Socialist party, despite promises by Valls to remove a divisive part of the draft text, which includes reference to people holding dual-nationality.

The government is now calling for a three-month extension of the state of emergency, which was scheduled to end on Feb. 26.

Valls also defended the powers given to authorities under the state of emergency, which make it easier to increase security measures. He said the powers had allowed authorities to disrupt terrorist networks.

"The state of emergency is efficient, indispensable," he said in a speech to lawmakers. "[Terrorist] networks are destabilized, numerous individuals are being watched."

New police powers

Under proposals to extend police powers to be introduced to parliament next week, it would be easier to carry out nighttime raids and search luggage and vehicles near "sensitive" sites.

Police could also hold a person for up to four hours during an identity check if there is a serious suspicion of a link to terrorism.

French police vehicles

Roughly 3,000 homes have been searched since the attacks

In the three months since the attacks on Paris, police have carried out 3,289 house searches, placed 341 people in custody, put 407 under house arrest and confiscated 560 weapons, 42 of them war-grade, the prime minister said.

Critics cry foul

But critics countered that much of the action has involved drug cases or similar crime, not terrorism.

Rights activists said police have abused their authority, while the human rights group Amnesty International criticized "disproportionate emergency measures," in a report released on Thursday.

"The reality we have seen in France is that sweeping executive powers, with few checks on their use, have generated a range of human rights violations. It is difficult to see how the French authorities can possibly argue that they represent a proportionate response to the threats they face," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's director for Europe and Central Asia.

But Valls insisted at least one terror plot had been foiled as a direct result of the house searches, which when conducted under emergency rule, can happen without first securing a search warrant.

mm/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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