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French parliament debates new anti-terror law

[JURIST] The National Assembly [official website], the lower house of the French parliament, began debate Wednesday on a new anti-terror law [draft text, in French] said to have been partly prompted by the July 7 London bombings and the apparent spread of Islamist terrorism to Western Europe. The new law, introduced [JURIST report] last month by Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy and approved by the French cabinet [French government press release], will extend the reach of public video surveillance along the lines of the UK model (the United Kingdom has some 4 million CCTV cameras, as opposed to 60,000 in France), will increase the number of days a terror suspect can be held without charge from 4 to 6 (still much shorter than the current 14 day period in the UK, soon likely to become 28), will lengthen the duration of prison sentences for terrorism, and will require transport companies and Internet cafes to hand over or store previously confidential or unknown customer data.

Although French anti-terrorism law is already considered among the toughest in Europe due to a broad existing offense for "criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise", French officials have recently urged additional steps, stressing the seriousness of the terrorist threat. Prime Minister Dominque de Villepin said last week that that threat had never been higher [French government press release], and Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, head of the French DST (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire) [backgrounder in French] internal security agency said Wednesday that there were "networks already in place...working on terrorist projects hostile to our country." The French National Assembly provides additional materials and background on the legislation [in French]. AFP has more. Ireland Online has more on de Florian's comments.

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