France extends post-attacks state of emergency

French Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks at a session of questions to the Government at the French National Assembly, on May 18, 2016, in Paris.
French Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks at a session of questions to the Government at the French National Assembly, on May 18, 2016, in Paris.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - France's parliament approved Thursday (May 19) a two-month extension of the state of emergency, in place since November's terrorist attacks, to cover the Euro 2016 football tournament and Tour de France.

Already backed by a large majority in the upper house Senate last week, the lower house National Assembly confirmed the measure on Thursday by 46 votes to 20.

"The terrorist threat remains at a high level and France, like the EU, is a target," said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve ahead of the vote.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls had earlier said there was no question of cancelling the Euro 2016 football tournament, which is expected to draw two million fans to the country between June 10 and July 10.

Millions of spectators are also expected for the Tour de France cycling race, which is set for July 2-24 and this year covers a route of 3,519km.

"Giving up on sporting events and cultural events is precisely to give in to the terrorist threat," he told RTL radio, vowing that everything had been done to limit the risk of attacks.

French internal intelligence chief Patrick Calvar told a parliamentary committee last week that France remains "clearly targeted" by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.

Calvar said France feared a "new form of attack" in which terrorists would place explosive devices in areas where big crowds gather.

He said such attacks would be repeated "to create a climate of panic".

Calvar said France was "today clearly the country most threatened" by both ISIS and a resurgent Al-Qaeda.

The state of emergency was imposed following the Nov 13 attacks that left 130 people dead in the French capital, and was already extended by three months in February until May 26.

It allows police to hold under house arrest people whose behaviour is considered "a threat to security and public order".

But under the latest extension, police will no longer have the power to raid homes without a court order, as they have since November.

Since the measures were imposed some 3,500 searches have been carried out, at least 56 suspects taken into custody and 69 people placed under house arrest, the government said in mid April.

The French Human Rights League (LDH) has criticised the extension, saying the government was becoming "hooked on the state of emergency".

"It reflects... a desire to condition us to living under this regime, hoping that the women and men of this country will forget that the defence of our freedoms is another essential way of fighting terrorism," the LDH said in a statement last month.