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France police arrest 54 people for supporting terrorism

[JURIST] French police have arrested 54 people for verbally supporting or threatening terrorist acts in the wake of the terrorist attacks at the offices of French humor magazine Charlie Hebdo [official website, in French] and a kosher supermarket. The French Justice Ministry [official website, in French] has called on [AP report] prosecutors to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and support of terrorism under the country's strong laws against anti-Semitism and racism. Under France's "immediate sentencing" judicial program many of the those detained have already been brought before a judge and sentenced [IBT report] for their crimes. In France jury trials are reserved [NYT backgrounder] for serious cases; for individuals suspected of minor crimes state-appointed magistrates prosecute and pass judgment. Among the 54 arrested were four minors and French comedian Dieudonne who is known for his anti-Semitic views.

Countries around the world have attempted to pass laws to curb fears of increasing extremism and terrorism. Last week Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain signed into law [JURIST report] anti-terrorism legislation that will establish military courts for the hearing of civilian terrorism related cases. This law is the latest in a series of anti-terrorism government efforts in the wake of the school massacre [JURIST report] by the Pakistani Taliban last month in Peshawar which killed 134 children along with 16 staff members. Also in January the High Court of Kenya [official website] suspended [JURIST report] eight sections of the controversial new anti-terrorism law until a legal challenge by the opposition is heard by the court. In November Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak [BBC profile] suggested to the country's parliament that new laws are needed to strengthen existing legislation to combat terrorism.

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