French Interior Minister announces seizure of passports of six suspected jihadists, says 40 more seizures are being prepared.
PARIS, FRANCE (FEBRUARY 23, 2015) (BFMTV) – French authorities seized the passports of six alleged French jihadists who were planning to depart to fight in Syria, the first time this anti-terrorism measure has been used, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Monday (February 23).
The ability to seize passports and identity cards of those suspected of imminent departure abroad to wage jihad was one of the key measures of an anti-terrorism bill passed by parliament in November.
“We wanted this measure because if French people leave to commit acts of violence in Iraq and Syria, upon their return they represent an even greater danger for the national territory and risk committing wide-scale terrorist acts motivated only by an instinct of violence because of acts of violence and acts they could have committed in the terrorist field of action. Today these six administrative bans on leaving the country have already been signed, another 40 are in preparation,” Cazeneuve told reporters outside the interior ministry.
The government estimates that about 1,400 French citizens have links to recruitment cells for Syria and Iraq, of which about 400 are already fighting alongside militants.
Some of the suspected jihadists banned from leaving France on Monday were signalled to authorities through a hot line put in place last year, while others were identified through ongoing investigations, an aide to Cazeneuve told Reuters.
Suspects have the right to appeal the new measure in an administrative court.
On Paris street, people questioned whether the measure was too extreme.
“Taking away someone’s passport is not very democratic. Because, I mean, who are they going to take it away from and how, etc. But I mean if they are high risk individuals, I think you need to take appropriate precautions. And at the very least, if you don’t take their passports away, you can prevent them from re-entering the country,” said passer-by Gerard Monroual.
Others thought this was the next logical step to prevent and combat the increasing threat of radicalism.
“I think it’s necessary to take excessive measures and that this measure in my opinion is authorized to the extent that, what other measure can be taken other than this one? That’s the question. I think there are no other solutions than to take their passports,” said Jean-Pierre Depasse.
France has been on high alert following Islamist attacks in Paris last month that killed 17 people and three gunmen. The country has long been a target for Islamist militants because of its record as a colonial power in North Africa and problems integrating its large Muslim minority.