French PM seeks new law to improve protection of civil servants against threats

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday his government would introduce legislation to improve protection of public servants against threats.


France has cracked down on Islamist militants after the October 16 decapitation of schoolteacher Samuel Paty, who was killed by a Chechnya-born 18-year-old man angered at Paty’s use of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression. Police shot dead the attacker.

In the run-up to the murder, the parent of one of Paty’s students and a known Islamist radical had run a social media campaign against the teacher.

Prosecutors said their posts contained the teacher’s name as well as the address of the school, allowing his killer to find him.

Both have been charged with complicity in a terrorist murder.

Castex said a pending draft law defending secular values against radical Islam – known as an anti-separatism law – would now be amended to allow the prosecution of anybody who posts personal details online if this “threatens the life of another”.

Castex said he would submit the additions to the French cabinet in December.

Fighting online harassment

Once voted into law, the provision will allow “the punishment of those who post personal information, thus threatening the life of a person, for example a teacher”, Castex said after Friday’s session of the French defence council.

The bill will also allow the prosecution of those who “put pressure” on public servants, Castex said, “with words or actions as was the case against Mr Paty and the head of the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine”, the Paris suburb where the murder took place.

Paty’s killing has prompted an outpouring of emotion in France, with tens of thousands taking part in rallies countrywide in defence of free speech and the right to mock religion.

Seven people have been charged in connection with the murder and police have carried out dozens of raids against alleged Islamist sympathisers.

Castex said Friday that police had arrested 27 people over illegal online posts in recent days after raids on 56 homes.

Dozens more raids were planned, he said.


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