Paris (CNSNews.com) – As French President Emmanuel Macron’s new anti-terror law, which faced some opposition from across the political spectrum, took effect, investigators this week netted nine people in Paris and southern France suspected of plotting terror attacks. A tenth person was arrested in Switzerland.
Officials say the suspects, ranging in age from 18 to 65, used the encrypted social media platform Telegram to communicate with each other and plan violent acts.
According to limited information released by the police, the suspects include converts to Islam and two brothers known by the police to be radicalized.
The arrests were the first to take place under a controversial law signed by Macron last week. It replaces the state of emergency that was imposed following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, and finally lifted on November 1.
One day before promulgation of the new law, the president defended it before the European Court Of Human Rights in Strasbourg, telling its 45 judges that the law protects both citizens and human rights.
Human rights campaigners argue that the new measures will impact basic freedoms and weaken the judiciary. Critics said Macron should first have obtained the Constitutional Council’s advice on whether the law was in line with France’s constitution.
The law gives “prefets” (prefects) – government representatives in the regions – the power to order four measures formerly requiring a judge’s approval: house arrest, administrative searches, imposition of security zones, and closure of places of worship.
Prefets will able to declare security zones during events like shows or international football games, when the risk is deemed to be higher. The officials are also empowered to shutter places of worship, temporarily or permanently, depending on the degree of threat.
France’s lower house and Senate approved the legislation in mid-October, but with objections from across the political spectrum.
Right-wing lawmakers said the measures would lower the guard in the fight against terrorism, arguing that it was not the right time to end the state of emergency. Some called for reinforcing the borders – something not covered in the new law.
Republicans were divided over the issue, and a minority voted against the legislation.
The leftist Rebellious France party and the communists voted against the legislation, arguing in a statement that “it permanently incorporates provisions that go against the principles inherited from the French Revolution.”
In the end the law passed, but with amendments setting a three-year time limit on the provisions relating to searches and house arrests.
The law has opponents outside of parliament too. In July, 500 academics and researchers launched an appeal against the proposals.
Signatory Vanessa Codaccioni, a senior lecturer in political science at Paris University, said the new law was unnecessary as France has enough laws to fight terrorism.
“One has to remember that France has a very long experience of terrorist attacks and has long been at the forefront of anti-terrorism,” she told Le Monde earlier. “France has one of the most powerful anti-terrorist apparatuses in Europe.”
According to Interior Minister Gérard Collomb law enforcement services have recorded eight attempted jihadists attacks and 13 failed ones this year.
In some cases suspects were arrested before carrying out the planned attack, as was the case in late August, when a man suspected of preparing an attack on night clubs in the Paris region was arrested. In September, a laboratory laden with explosives was discovered in a Parisian suburb.