France

France fast-tracks ban on jihadi training abroad

Reuters

France is to rush through a new law banning its nationals from training in alleged terror camps abroad. The right-wing opposition voted for the Socialist-sponsored bill, judging it a rehash of former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s response to Mohamed Merah’s killing spree during the presidential election campaign.

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The upper house of parliament, the Senate, passed the bill overnight, putting it on a fast track to go to the lower house and be passed after just one debate in each chamber.

It would mean that anyone who has trained to commit “terrorist acts” in a camp abroad could be jailed for up to 10 years and/or fined 225,000 euros, even if they have committed no crime on French territory.

It also prolongs the state’s right to tap phones and monitor web traffic in relation to terrorism until 2016. The “temporary” measure was introduced in 2006.

The bill was proposed by Interior Minister Manuel Valls and Justice Minister Christiane Taubira but supported by the right-wing opposition, which judged it to be a reworking of proposals drafted by Sarkozy after Mohamed Merah killed seven people in south-west France in March this year.

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On the government’s left, the Communists voted against, their leader in the Senate, Eliane Assassi, declaring that the bill does not identify the “real problems” and gives succour to the “unacceptable amalgam between immigration and terrorism”.

Valls told the press that France is at a high risk from terror attacks at the moment and that the threat comes “more and more from within”.

Radical Islamists are the “enemy within”, he said, pointing out that Merah had trained in a jihadi camp in the tribal zones on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan and claiming tha social networks have become “sites for the propagation of hatred”.

In France this week:

  • Anti-racist and Jewish groups threatened legal action over a Twitter hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew) that is reported to have attracted a large number of anti-Semitic comments;
  • Three men suspected of preparing to go to fight with armed group in Somalia were arrested in the Paris area;
  • The assets of a French-language jihadi website accused of “promoting terrorism” were frozen.

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