Senate gives thumbs-up to anti-terrorism law
PARIS, Dec 15 (AFP) - France's upper house of parliament adopted on Thursday a new anti-terrorism bill, rejecting several amendments by left-wing opposition parties who feared the effect on civil liberties and race relations.
Partly inspired by British investigators’ use of video footage to identify the suicide bombers in the July attacks In London, the law paves the way for increased use of surveillance cameras in public spaces such as train stations, churches and mosques, factories or nuclear plants.
The legislation championed by hard-line Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was adopted with 203 senators from the ruling centre-right UMP and its ally the UDF approving the law while 122 socialists and communists voted against.
Passed by the lower house on November 29, the legislation is due to take effect before Christmas after a final vote by both houses of parliament.
Socialist proposals to hand oversight of video surveillance to a national civil liberties commission were rejected.
Also approved were further ruling-party amendments placing the burden of proof on terrorist suspects to justify their income and widening police powers to stop suspicious vehicles.
Socialist senators, while insisting they were committed to the fight against terrorism, criticised the package for blurring the distinctions between “terrorists, delinquents and immigrants”.
“You are sowing the seeds of xenophobia and racism,” said former socialist culture minister Catherine Tasca.
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has said the new law will give the country a better arsenal to counter terrorist attacks and prevent “a catastrophe”.
The law will also give police wider access to telephone and computer data, and to previously confidential customer information from rail, maritime and air transport companies.
The bill introduces longer prison terms for convicts in terrorism cases while the maximum period for holding suspects without charge is increased from four to six days.
France’s anti-terrorism legislation is already among the toughest in the 25-member European Union due to the catch-all offence of “criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise”.
Subject: French news