France to strip nationality for killing police: Sarkozy

6th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday he wants to strip French nationality from immigrants if they kill or try to kill police or public officials, as part of a controversial law and order drive.

Defying both an international outcry over his targeting of foreigners and claims he is pandering to far-right voters, Sarkozy expressed determination to push ahead with a tough crackdown on foreign-born criminals.

But he dropped a threat to strip foreign-born Frenchmen of their citizenship if they are convicted of polygamy. Instead, rules will be tightened to prevent them claiming welfare benefits for multiple wives.

The statement from the president's office said the government would draft a law "as soon as possible" and hoped to have it in force by the end of the year.

It would allow judges "to withdraw French nationality, within 10 years of the granting of French nationality, to those who deliberately endanger the life of a person invested with public authority, particularly a police officer."

The government will also seek legislation "to facilitate the deportation of foreigners in irregular situations including, in some circumstances, citizens of the European Union."

This new rule would kick in when immigrants "threaten public order, have no durable means of supporting themselves or abuse the right of free movement."

The statement did not explicitly target any single minority, but it comes after Sarkozy ordered police to round-up hundreds of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma Gypsies and expel them back to their homelands.

Tens of thousands protested in cities across France on Saturday against the targeting of Roma and smaller demonstrations also took place in other European capitals.

French ministers insist that the round-up is legal under existing European and French legislation, but it attracted criticism from United Nations and EU rights experts as an apparent collective punishment.

Immigration Minister Eric Besson denied France is engaged in "collective expulsions", saying Roma were leaving voluntarily in return for payments, and insisted France was respecting EU laws on freedom of movement.

He told reporters that changing the rules for acquiring or revoking nationality "requires extremely deep examination" and may have to be referred to France's highest legal body, the State Council.

"There is going to be a person or a commission named very soon to study ways in which we might apply what the president of the republic has said," he added.

Sarkozy announced the broad themes of the crackdown in a speech last month in the wake of riots in the eastern city of Grenoble, but until now the extent of the new laws had not been made clear.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux had suggested the crimes leading to a loss of nationality for recent French citizens ought to include polygamy and female circumcision.

But the presidential statement said merely that rules would be tightened to allow fraud prosecutions where multiple claims were made for partners.

© 2010 AFP

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