Sunday 27 May 2018

French justice chief quits over bill to strip jihadists of citizenship

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira blowing a kiss as she leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris (Photo: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters)
French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira blowing a kiss as she leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris (Photo: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters)

Henry Samuel

French President François Hollande faces revolt in his security crackdown in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, after justice minister, Christiane Taubira, resigned over his drive to strip convicted jihadists of French citizenship.

The French president announced the ministerial resignation just before a cabinet meeting, and hours before a parliament commission debates the controversial bill.

Ms Taubira, a Leftist and a brilliant orator, who became a darling of her camp for championing the legalisation of gay marriage, said that "sometimes to resist is to stay, sometimes to resist is to leave".

To her supporters, the 63-year-old from French Guiana on the Caribbean coast is a pioneer for women and minorities in French politics. But over the past four years, she has become a figure of hate for many French opposition conservatives and the far-Right for her perceived soft law and order policies. Several times, the black politician was the victim of racist jibes.

Jean-Jacques Urvoas, the current president of the parliamentary laws commission will replace Ms Taubira to "carry out... the constitutional reform", said the justice ministry.

Mr Hollande called for the "loss of nationality" measure to be written into the constitution in the aftermath of the November jihadist attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead.

It is part of a raft of measures meant to clamp down on hundreds of French citizens - many holding dual nationality - who leave to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) in Iraq and Syria, and in the case of the November attackers, return to wreak carnage in France.

"Removing French nationality from those who blindly kill other French in the name of an ideology of terror is a strong symbolic act against those who have excluded themselves from the national community," Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, after the measure was announced.

However, many in the ruling Socialists were uncomfortable with the measure, including Ms Taubira, warning that it would drive a wedge between those who are only French, and those who hold a second nationality.

Just a day before the reforms were presented, she announced it would be dropped because it was "discriminatory", only to be overruled at the last minute by the prime minister and Mr Hollande. Polls suggest most French support the idea, but opponents fear it would unfairly target Muslims, and some have likened it to the revocation of citizenship of French Jews during World War Two.

A law already exists that allows for naturalised citizens to be stripped of their nationality, but not those born French.

Mr Valls announced yesterday the phrase "dual citizen" would not feature in the reforms, raising the prospect that convicted terrorists with sole French nationality risk being made stateless citizens.

The reforms also aim to inscribe the right to declare a state of emergency into the constitution, including powers to raid homes and place people under house arrest without judicial oversight.

The current three-month state of emergency is due to expire on February 26 but Mr Valls last week said it would continue until Isil had been defeated.

Parliament is due to start debating the reforms in early February, followed by a vote in Versailles uniting members of the National Assembly and Senate.

Marine Le Pen, the Front National leader, said her departure was "a relief" and "good news for France", while Guillaume Larrivé, of the centre-Right opposition party, The Republicans, said: "She was the worst justice minister of the Fifth Republic."

But Yann Galut, a leftist Socialist MP, said: "We have lost a great lady, a minister who commanded unanimous support among Socialist MPs. Her resignation will destabilise the government's centre of gravity, which is becoming increasingly liberal."

Olivier Faure, a Socialist spokesman, denied her departure had sparked a "political crisis" (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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