Anti-terror legislation passes easily

The lower house of the French parliament easily approved a controversial anti-terrorism bill.

According to France 24, the bill makes permanent a number of emergency measures that were put in place after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.

The law permits the government to restrict the movement of suspected jihadists, conduct on-the-spot identity checks, and shut down any religious meeting place suspected of supporting terrorism.

While a few critics have expressed concern over the bill’s effect on civil liberties, the bill has enjoyed generally strong public support. According to a Le Figaro poll, 57 percent of French people support the bill.

France has suffered more Islamist terror attacks than any other country in Europe.

The bill passed 415-127. There were 19 abstentions.

France has passed progressively more aggressive anti-terror legislation since Mohamed Merah attacked soldiers and a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012.

Merah’s attack is now seen as the first of the long string of terrorist actions that have plagued France. Merah’s brother Abdelkader is now on trial for complicity in that attack.

However, this bill goes even further than previous laws. Benedicte Jeannerod, director of Human Rights Watch’s French office, said, “the normalization of emergency powers crosses a new line."

Other critics are concerned about the risk of racial profiling and harassment. Thierry Paul Valette, head of Égalité Nationale, said, "People who are supposedly foreigners, black or north African will be stigmatized.”

Although critics of the bill also claimed the emergency powers did nothing to prevent more terror attacks in 2016 and 2017, government officials argue that is an unfair assessment. The government says the emergency powers have allowed it to foil 12 terrorist attacks in 2017.

Marine Le Pen, the head of far-right populist party Front National, did not believe the measures in the bill were strong enough.

The latest terror attack in France happened on Sunday in Marseille. Ahmed Hanachi stabbed two young women to death in the city’s main train station. There have now been 241 people killed in jihadist attacks since 2015.

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