France scraps law making 'regular' visits to jihadi websites an offence

Constitutional council rules law infringe unnecessary and disproportionately on freedom of communication 

Chloe Farand
Friday 10 February 2017 16:39 GMT
The Genie de la Liberte on the top of the July Column at the Place de la Bastille square in Paris
The Genie de la Liberte on the top of the July Column at the Place de la Bastille square in Paris (Jacky Naegelen/Reuters )

A French law that banned people from regularly visiting jihadist websites, which encourage or praise “acts of terrorism”, has been ruled unconstitutional.

The constitutional council, a top judicial body, has overturned the law which was brought in last June after a terrorist attack by jihadist militants killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015.

In a ruling, the 10-members of the constitutional council vetoed the law, which would imposed a two-year prison sentence and a €30,000 (£25,575) fine for anyone consulting jihadist websites regularly on the basis it infringed unnecessarily and disproportionately on freedom of communication.

In a statement, the council said that French law enforcement agencies had enough resources to tackle terrorism by monitoring websites, which incited militancy, and people who clearly had "a terrorist intention" without the need for this new law.

The case was brought before the constitutional council by a lawyer, whose client was found guilty of the offence and was sentenced for two-years by a tribunal in Anger.

The lawyer decried the new law as “very vague” and warned it could lead to prosecutions of a large number of people, who were being asked to prove their good faith.

The man accused of the offence was also sentenced for other offences and it is unclear how the ruling will affect his prison term.

The decision comes as a 16-year-old girl was among four suspects arrested in Montpellier, south of France, for allegedly planning a new terror attack in “a tourist area” of Paris after explosives and bomb-making material were found in a man’s home.

The 16-year-old girl and her 20-year-old boyfriend, both in custody, were known from the French authorities for their alleged connection with radical Islam.

France has been under a state of emergency since the horrific attack in November 2015 and has since seen another attack last July, which killed 86 people in Nice during national day celebrations.

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