French passport-stripping plan in doubt after senate vote

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2016 11:47 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - President Francois Hollande's plan to strip French citizenship from convicted terrorists hit an obstacle on Tuesday as the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament approved the measure in different terms from the lower house.

The Senate voted by 176-131 to write the passport-stripping clause into the constitution, but included an amendment narrowing it to concern only dual nationals, sending the bill back to the Socialist-controlled lower house and effectively delaying its adoption.

A failure by both houses to agree on a common version will at best delay the measure. To change the constitution, the government's proposal needs to be approved by each house of parliament in exactly the same terms and then by a three-fifths majority of parliament.

The controversial plan proposed by Hollande after Islamic militants killed 130 people in Paris last November has been criticized by lawmakers from both the ruling Socialist party and the center-right opposition.

The government's plan has been called ineffective and purely symbolic since it is impossible to send a stateless person out of the country. The Senate's version meanwhile creates a two-tier nation of strippable and non-strippable citizens and could fuel racial tension, critics say.

The vote came on the day at least 30 people were killed in attacks on Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train and four days after the arrest in the Belgian capital of a suspected participant in the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.

The case of the 26-year old suspect captured last week, Salah Abdeslam, illustrates the plan's shortcomings, some lawmakers said.

The Frenchman, who does not hold any other nationality, could have been stripped of his French passport under the lower house's version but would have thereby been made stateless, making his expulsion from French territory impossible.

(Reporting by Emile Picy; Writing by Michel Rose; Eediting by Andrew Callus)