France extends emergency rule for 6 months

Police given extra search-and-arrest powers until late January with passage of Bill

PARIS • French lawmakers approved a six-month rollover of emergency rule yesterday in the wake of last week's truck attack in Nice, the third deadly assault in 18 months for which militants have claimed responsibility.
 

President Francois Hollande's Socialist government is under intense pressure over security since last week's attack, in which a Tunisian man mowed through a Bastille Day crowd, killing 84 people before he was shot dead by police.

The extension of extra search-and-arrest powers for police was approved by 489 votes to 26 shortly before dawn in France's National Assembly, the Lower House of Parliament.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, jeered by crowds at a remembrance ceremony on Monday and criticised by political opponents over the attack, called for national unity as he presented the emergency rule Bill overnight.

"We must remain united and focused because we must be strong in the face of this threat," he said, accusing political foes of unseemly exploitation of the tragedy before the dead have even been buried.

CALL FOR UNITY

We must remain united and focused because we must be strong in the face of this threat.

PRIME MINISTER MANUEL VALLS, who accused political foes of unseemly exploitation of the tragedy.

Mr Christian Estrosi, head of the regional government in the area around Nice, renewed charges of serious security failings and inadequate policing. He has demanded an inquiry.

Emergency rule has been in place since attacks on Paris last November in which Islamist militants killed 130 people. In January last year, 17 people were killed in attacks that began with the shooting of journalists working for Charlie Hebdo, a satirical publication that had published cartoons mocking Islam.

In response to demands from the main right-wing opposition party, Les Republicains, the rollover of emergency rule was extended for six months, to late January next year, rather than the three months proposed by Mr Hollande's government. The emergency regime allows police to search homes and arrest people without prior consent from judges. It also allows them to tap computer and phone communications more freely.

The attacks have further weakened Mr Hollande's chances of winning re-election next year, already damaged by his failure to bring down unemployment.

Defending his government's record, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told Le Monde newspaper in an interview that even with all the measures being taken, "there can never be zero risk".

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the Nice attack, although no firm evidence has yet emerged that the 31-year-old attacker had direct contact with the group.

France has said it will step up its involvement in the US-led coalition attacking bases of the militant group in Iraq and Syria. Its defence and foreign ministers are currently in the United States meeting other coalition members to discuss how to step up military efforts against ISIS.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'France extends emergency rule for 6 months'. Print Edition | Subscribe