France imposes unprecedented measures to fight jihad

800 French in Syria, new recruits can be blocked from leaving

09 July, 14:08

    (by Tullio Giannotti) (ANSAmed) - PARIS, JULY 8 - An unprecedented package of laws in France aims to tighten the belt against the threat of internal terrorism, but especially block the phenomenon of French leaving for Syria to enroll in the jihad or "holy war". The measure was initially focused on preventing the spread of terroristic projects on the Internet, but has become a sprawling plan to try to limit the movements and actions of suspicious individuals that have fallen into the crosshairs of intelligence services and deemed at risk. The norm being launched is very much at the constitutional limit: the crime of "individual terroristic association". It is a legal contortion that some groups already criticize, which aims to create scorched earth around the so-called "lone-wolves" - those identified by intelligence but act alone, such as the 2012 Toulouse killer, Mohamed Merah.

    Currently, magistrates cannot take restrictive or preventative measures against individuals who have not yet broken the law and are not in contact with organizations that support terrorism. With the new legislation, this will be possible if intelligence services suspect that a person has fallen under the influence of holy war extremists. Uncertainty swirls around the technical instruments that French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is to illustrate today. If it is possible to prevent someone from taking a direct airplane to an Asian country, it is impossible to prevent movement within the Schengen area, or to enter Turkey with a simple identity card.

    Airlines, shipping lines, railway and other transport companies are paying particularly close attention, and will seek to sensitize Greek and Turkish authorities, as French jihad recruits nearly always pass through Greece or Turkey on their way to Syria. The French interior minister officially speaks of roughly 800 French citizens and residents who have gone to or returned from Syria. Three hundred of these have fought or are currently fighting in Syria's armed conflict.

    The legislative package would also block Websites that approve of terrorism.

    Critics say tools for masking identities could make the legislation ineffective, while online rights groups claim the new rules amount to killing freedom. (ANSAmed).

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