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France

Macron signs controversial French 'anti-rioters' bill into law

media Protestors will no longer be allowed to conceal their faces during demonstrations. AFP PHOTO THOMAS SAMSON

French President Emmanuel Macron has signed into law legislation giving security forces greater powers at demonstrations which opponents claim violate civil liberties.

The bill, approved by lawmakers in February, aims to crack down on violence that has marred the anti-government "yellow vest" protest movement which began in last November.

On Thursday Interior Minister Christophe Castaner took to Twitter to hail the law as a "text which protects the French in the face of insecurity and violence" [...]  "which protects our institutions and liberties".

But in a move indicative of the political trouble caused for Macron by the "yellow vest" movement, the Constitutional Council, France’s highest authority, refused this month to give its green light to one of the most contentious parts of the legislation.

Several MPs, including some from the ruling Republic on the move party, opposed an article that would have given the authorities the power to ban any individual "posing a particularly serious threat to public order" from taking part in demonstrations.

The article was accompanied by a file of named individuals sought by the police, which critics strongly denounced as violating citizens' freedom of assembly as enshrined in the constitution.

However the council did approve two other key parts of the legislation, including giving the authorities the power to search bags and cars in and around demonstrations if demanded by a prosecutor.

It also approved making it a criminal offence for protestors to conceal their face at a demonstration, punishable by a year in prison and 15,000 euros in fines.

(with newswires)

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