Thu, Jul 21, 2016 - Page 7 News List

French assembly votes to extend state of emergency

DISCORD:The Republicans called for an escalation of security measures, including detention, while others said that an attack occurred, despite the state of emergency

AFP, PARIS

The French National Assembly early yesterday voted by a huge majority for a proposed law that would extend France’s state of emergency for six months following last week’s massacre in Nice, France.

The state of emergency has been in place since the Paris attacks in November last year, and the extension would see the measures — which give police extra powers to carry out searches and place people under house arrest — remain in place until the end of January next year.

After seven hours of at times tense debate, the lower house of parliament voted early yesterday morning in favor of the law 489 to 26 — the fourth time the state of emergency has been prolonged.

The National Assembly also voted to allow authorities to search luggage and vehicles without prior approval from a prosecutor.

The law now needs to pass through the French Senate, which was set to vote on it yesterday afternoon.

French President Francois Hollande on Thursday last week announced a plan to lift the emergency security measures, but changed tack hours later after a truck driver plowed through a crowd at Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, killing 84 people in an attack later claimed by the Islamic State group.

Hollande’s French Socialist Party government has been under heavy criticism from the right for its response to the slew of extremist attacks.

The fact the president was open to the six-month extension was seen as a concession to the opposition center-right French Republicans, who have demanded that the state of emergency be maintained until the end of the year.

With elections due next year, the political unity seen after last year’s attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has evaporated.

French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve has defended the government, saying it has bolstered security, notably by sending thousands of troops into the streets.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday said that the country must be prepared for more deadly attacks and will have to “learn to live with the threat.”

However, the Socialists have also said they would draw the line at some of the opposition’s more controversial demands.

Republicans leader and former president Nicolas Sarkozy, eyeing another run for the top job next year, has called for anyone showing signs of being radicalized to be forced to wear an electronic tag, placed under house arrest or kept in a detention center.

While some on the right think the six-month extension is not sufficient, there are also critics on the left concerned about civil liberties who say that even with the state of emergency in place, an attack occurred.

“We can’t lock people up on the basis of mere suspicion, or suspicion of suspicion,” French Minister for Parliamentary Relations Jean-Marie Le Guen said on Tuesday.

Valls hit out at the Republicans’ No. 2, Laurent Wauquiez, after the National Assembly vote.

“While this government is in place in France, there will be no detention of suspects for an indeterminate duration,” he said.

Investigators say that 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who used a 19-tonne truck to mow down revelers enjoying Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, had shown “recent interest” in extremist activity.

Authorities found “very violent” photographs on his computer, including of corpses, fighters posing with the Islamic State flag and photographs of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

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