OPINIONS Security laws common and effective in tackling down terrorists in Western countries


Security laws common and effective in tackling down terrorists in Western countries

Global Times

09:57, July 07, 2020

Since the national security law for Hong Kong came into effect on June 30, its deterrent effect has been immediate. More people are expecting Hong Kong to return to stability so its residents can live peacefully.


(File Photo: IC)

However, some international politicians and media are still making double standards, chastising China for legislating to guard the security of its own land. 

Every sovereign country takes into account security. In European countries and the US, there are many law enforcement cases using national security laws, and the Global Times has collected the information and examples to show the facts.

France: 'a textbook case'

After a series of terrorist attacks, France announced a state of emergency status in November 2015. 

After ending the emergency, the country adopted in November 2017 a law, "Strengthening Homeland Security and the Fight Against Terrorism," which allows provincial governors approving  alerting zones while holding key sports or cultural events; closing religious venues that spread extremism; and putting terrorist suspects under administrative control or supervision.

In December 2017, one of France's largest mosques in Marseille the as-Sounna mosque was closed by the government. The French media called this event a textbook case for applying the security law.

The closure was caused by the mosque's Imam El Hadi Doudi, who had been allegedly "provoking discrimination, hatred and violence toward an individual or group," media reported. Doudi had reportedly been calling for jihad and introducing several Muslims to join the IS.

After the security law passed, the provincial government ordered to close the mosque, freeze its property and dismiss the related organizations.

Doudi was then deported to Algeria, his hometown, following a lengthy legal process. Though Doudi's lawyer sued to the European Court of Human Rights, the French government won against Doudi's lawsuit.

The local police chief said the case would deliver clear notice that if one did not obey French law, the country would fight until the end.

On September 21 and 22, 2019, also the European Heritage Days, the Paris police predicted that tourists, the "yellow vests" and the strikers for pensions would be mixed on streets. Factoring in online posts inciting violence and the potential for demonstrations to escalate, the Paris police called 7,500 law-enforcement personnel to set alert zones and strictly limit the area of the marchers' activities. It was the first time the Paris police applied the security law against demonstrations.

A French rapper was sentenced in jail for uploading rap videos allegedly praising terrorism and threatening the French government. The organization "Killuminateam — soldiers on the path of Allah" set up by the rapper and his wife were sued by their province in November 2019.

On March 17, France launched a strict lockdown in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. However, counter-terrorist experts claimed that lockdown would further stimulate extremists. Therefore, the security authority in France went on alert and kept a close eye on the personnel potentially threatening the country's safety. 

From March 17 to April 15, the security department monitored 22 extremists and conducted raids on three suspects.

In February, the French Interior Minister implied the country is monitoring 62 mosques and had cracked down 31 terrorist attacks in two years. Later, the commission to supervise the enforcement of the security law said that since the law was launched, France had set alert zones 504 times, closed seven religious venues, raided suspects 149 times and had 205 suspects under control or surveillance.

The law was criticized for violating human rights, with the UN particularly voicing concern. However, Laurent Nuñez, Secretary of State to the Minister of the Interior, said the related measures were approved by the court and the process and result were correct and just.

France's security law will expire by the end of the year, and the Ministry of Interior has to bring forward a new bill to allow the law to remain effective. The commission suggested expanding its scope by allowing the closure of afflicted venues of the religions ones, and expanding surveillance of dangerous figures from one year to 10 or 20 years.

Spain: "nobody is above the law"

In Spain, the Supreme Court in October 2019 convicted nine separatists years in jail for their pro-independence activities in the country's Catalonia region in 2017, when the region held an "independence referendum" in October in defiance of the Constitutional Court's prohibition.

The nine people included Catalonia's former vice president Oriol Junqueras, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the guilty of sedition and misuse of public funds; the region's former parliament president Carme Forcadell, who was sentenced in jail for 11 years and a half for the crime of sedition; and former Catalonian parliament member Jordi Sànchez and businessman Jordi Cuixart, both of whom were convicted to nine years in prison for sedition.

The court's verdict will be fully implemented, said Spain's then-acting president Pedro Sánchez in a statement after the announcement of the court's conviction. "[The judgment] is the result of our social and democratic state under rule of law," he said. "Nobody is above the law."

He stated that the Spanish Constitution sets forth three principles. Firstly, equality among citizens - equality before the law, and in the enjoyment of rights and freedom. Secondly, territorial diversity - Spain's unity is based on the recognition of its diversity, which is reflected in the high degree of self-governance of the country's Autonomous Communities. Thirdly, as in any democratic Constitution in the world, the inviolable nature of Spain's territorial integrity and national sovereignty.

The Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena applied again to extradite former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who was in exile in Belgium after being convicted for sedition and misuse of public funds. The court had withdrawn a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont in 2017, with only domestic domestic warrants remaining in force.

The Supreme Court sentenced the separatists in the Catalonia referendum incident for the crime of sedition instead of rebellion, which would have entailed the prison term from 15 to 25 years, reported Spanish newspaper El País.

The crime of rebellion requires an element of violence, the report said, explaining that in the referendum case, the defendants were not charged with rebellion because they "did not commit these [violent] actions." 

Spanish central government announced to suspend Catalonia's autonomy and close down its regional government and parliament at the end of October 2017 soon after the referendum. The conviction of the former regional officials including Junqueras has shown that, the law (the Spanish Constitution) is the only rule that applies to national security issues.

Germany: improved from major cases

An expert on Berlin's security policy told the Global Times that Germany has three pillars in the legislation on national security, including Anti Terror Act, Germany Constitutional Law, and relevant articles in the German Criminal Code, but that the Anti Terror Act is the major one. In the past decades, national security legislation in Germany was improved after several major cases.

In the 1960s, Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF), a left-wing radical group emerged among the young Germans a force against capitalism and the US military.

In April, 1968, first-generation leaders of RAF Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin set fire to two department stores in Frankfurt. In 1977, the group reinforced its activities, which was known as the "German Autumn."  

RAF murdered leading figures in economic, financial, political sectors of the former West Germany, including Karl Heinz Beckurts, a member of the Executive Board and Head of Corporate Research and Technology of Siemens AG, Alfred Herrhausen, Chairman of Deutsche Bank, and the Public Prosecutor General of the Federal Court of Justice Siegfried Buback.

Because of the RAF, West Germany added to its Criminal Code a clause against terrorism organizations, which was the first time for the Germany to propose the legal term of "terrorism organization" after the Second World War, the expert said. Soon RAF members received their penalties on the charge of organizing terrorism activities.

After the 911 incident in the US, Germany expedited legislation on national security. In the Criminal Code, Germany expanded the scope of organizing terrorism groups as the county included supporting overseas terrorism organizations into the law item.

Germany also amended the Community Law,in which the Federal Ministry of the Interior or state government is entitled to eradicate religion groups that violate the law.

In 2008, Germany amended its Code of Criminal Procedure, to extend the authority on telecom monitor and other secret investigation.

In 2013, Edward Snowden disclosed that the US bugged the phone of Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. In 2016, Germany allowed its Federal Intelligence Service to monitor foreigners' telecom and online communication in other countries.

These new rules were released against the background that the German national security was criticized for sloppily handling National Socialist Underground (NSU,) a far-right neo-Nazi terrorist group, which murdered 10 innocents from 2000 to 2007, and participated in 15 armed robbery and arsons. In 2018, Beate Zschäpe,a principal criminal of NSU was sentenced life prison. The case was dubbed the most important NSU case in Germany after the Second World War.

In March, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution listed "Der Flügel" (German for "the wing"), a far-right faction within Germany's Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) as an extremist organization. 

"Der Flügel" had some 7,000 members in the AfD, and Andreas Kalbitz, a former leader of the AfD said the decision is politically correct. 

On March 30, AfD announced to disband "Der Flügel" with its members quitting the organization. Björn Höcke, a leader of the Party criticized "Der Flügel." Analysis said the move was a way to protect AfD from the punishment of Germany's national security law system.

The expert said the decisions on some major cases decide the trend of German national security legislation.

The German national security law is becoming increasingly stricter with a wider scope. Additionally it has been focused on legislation to prevent terrorism conspired by domestic and foreign forces, he said.

The US: From Boston Marathon bombing to Prism

On April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded near the finish line of Boston Marathon, leading to three people's death and injuring 183 people.

The investigation led by the FBI finally identified 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev and 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as suspects. Tamerlan Tsarnaev later died of critical injuries.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was born into an ethnically Chechen family. He was captured on April 19 and three days later, he was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property.

"Thanks to the valor of state and local police, the dedication of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, and the vigilance of members of the public, we've once again shown that those who target innocent Americans and attempt to terrorize our cities will not escape from justice.  We will hold those who are responsible for these heinous acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law," the US Attorney General said in a press release.

After preliminary questioning, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev admitted he was motivated by extreme religious beliefs and the Afghanistan war and the Iraq war the US started. 

On July 10, 2013, he was trialed at federal court in Boston, facing 30 charges. The trial began in January 2015. Tsarnaev's lawyer stressed the defendant's fall had direct connection with his terrible upbringing and that his brother was the main culprit behind the acts. But the court did not accept the lawyer's argument.  

While Massachusetts canceled the death penalty in 1984, he was trialed at a federal court; the US federal government resumed death penalty in 1988. On June 24, 2015, he was sentenced to death. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is detained at a federal prison and he is one of the more than 60 criminals waiting to be executed. 

In recent years, espionage cases have dominated the US' national security issues. In 1917, the country enacted the Espionage Act which stipulated that individuals, who obtain, receive and spread national security information without authorization, will face heavy penalties.

Ten days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the FBI arrested Ana Belen Montes, a former American senior analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency in the US. She had nothing to do with the terrorist attack. But she was still arrested because she knew information that American troops would invade Afghanistan that October. 

The US government did not want her to release the confidential information. Previously, the FBI found that Montes worked for the Cuban government. Eventually, she pleaded to espionage crimes and was sentenced 25 years in prison, in order to avoid the charge of treason which could lead to death penalty. 

The Prism program, a code name for the large surveillance program in the US, disclosed by Edward Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency employee, is another famous case. 

In June 2013, Snowden exposed the illegal surveillance program to the media. On June 14, 2013, the US federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against him, charging him with three felonies - theft of government property, disclosure of national security information without authorization and intentionally disclosed classified communications intelligence information to unauthorized personnel. The latter two charges fall under the Espionage Act.

Each of the three charges carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. The criminal complaint filed against Snowden by federal prosecutors was declassified after the Justice Department received a barrage of calls from lawmakers and the media. The Justice Department said Snowden's action was a serious threat to the national security. Snowden lives in Russia, but he is still wanted by US authorities.

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