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PARIS, June 22, (Agencies): French President Emmanuel Macron’s government on Thursday set out a tough new anti-terrorism law that has already faced protests from civil rights groups. The proposals presented to the first meeting of the reshuffl ed cabinet are designed to allow the lifting of the state of emergency that has been in place in France since the November 2015 attacks. The government has extended the state of emergency five times since it was introduced by the then Socialist government in response to coordinated shootings and suicide bombings in Paris that killed 130 people in November 2015. The current provision expires in mid-July when it is expected to be extended again until November 1 while the new law is prepared.
The legislation has received the go-ahead from France’s top administrative court despite concerns from rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that it will enshrine into law draconian powers allowed under the state of emergency. Amnesty complained last month, for example, that French authorities were abusing anti-terrorism measures by using them to curb legitimate protests. France has been consistently targeted by jihadists since 2015.
The ever-present threat was underlined on Monday when a man rammed a car laden with guns and gas bottles into a police van on Paris’ Champs-Elysees avenue. The driver of the car, 31-year-old suspected Islamist Adam Djaziri, died in the attack but no-one else was injured.
The new law would give local authorities greater powers to act to protect an event or location thought to be at risk from attack, without first seeking permission from the courts. Local authorities could, for example, decide to put in place a security cordon and carry out bag checks and searches using private guards without seeking approval beforehand.
The draft law would also allow places of worship thought to be promoting extremism to be shut down for up to six months. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe argued it struck the “right balance” between respecting freedoms and reinforcing security. “We want to guarantee security and we want to do so while respecting the law and the constitution … and we cannot stop living our lives,” he told TF1 on Wednesday.