French terrorism bill clears first step

France's lower house of parliament has voted in favour of a new terrorism law that is set to allow greatly increased video surveillance of public places.

    Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy drew up the law

    The bill, drawn up after the London transport bombings, was supported on Tuesday by the 373 deputies of the ruling centre-right UMP and its ally the UDF. The 27 deputies from the Communist and Green parties voted against and the main opposition Socialists abstained.


    Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told parliament the law would "equip France with a more effective arsenal to prevent terrorist acts" and would give "the law enforcement authorities greater means to avoid a catastrophe".


    He welcomed lawmakers' decision to "stand by a policy that is intransigent towards and against terrorists".


    The bill is set to be put before the Senate in mid-December.


    British influence


    Sarkozy, who drew up the legislation after the attacks on London's transport network in July, in which 56 people died, was reportedly impressed by British investigators' use of video footage to identify the perpetrators.


    CCTV footage  helped investigators
    after the London bombings

    The law would make it possible to install video cameras on the public transport system, in places of worship and in shops.


    It would also give police wider access to telephone and computer data as well as to previously confidential customer information from rail, maritime and air transport companies.


    Longer prison terms would be introduced for convicts in terrorism cases and the maximum period for which a suspect can be held without charge would be increased from four to six days.


    France lifted its terrorism alert level to "red", the third highest on a four-colour scale, after the London bombings.



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