Belgian government approves new anti-terrorism measures

Brussels, (IANS) The Belgian government on Friday approved three bills related to the 12 anti-terrorism measures that were proposed in January following the dismantling of a major jihadi cell in the country.

The approval comes in the same week that additional raids across Belgium were carried out on suspected Chechen jihadis, Xinhua news agency reported.

Upon government approval of the measures on Friday, Prime Minister Charles Michel in a statement said that the police actions against the Chechen suspects “show that we must mobilise against the terrorist threat”.

“For several months, the government has significantly strengthened the means of action. I am delighted to see the 12 measures presented in January materialise,” he said

The first of the three bills expands the list of terrorist offences, and includes the sanctioning of wiretaps against suspects.

The second bill advocates the temporary withdrawal of the national identity card in order to clamp down on those suspected of wanting to leave Belgium to fight for terrorist groups in the likes of Syria.

The third bill will extend the sanction of passport withdrawal to those considered to be an international security risk.

According to Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Jan Jambon, “this is an important measure giving us the ability to prevent radicalised people to fight in Syria or Iraq”.

“Temporary withdrawal of the identity card is one of the main points of the 12 steps we take to combat terrorism.”

Koen Geens, the minister of justice, added that the measures “can punish anyone leaving Belgian territory for terrorist purposes”.

“The full legal framework has already been applied to prosecuting Belgian citizens and people who leave the country in order to strengthen terrorist groups in Syria,” he said.

In addition, the government also approved on Friday a bill allowing the forfeiture or refusal of protected status for serious criminals. Under this measure, those considered to be a national security risk or pose a terrorist threat, will not be entitled to the same protection as other criminals.

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