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French lawmakers OK security bill increasing police powers

PARIS — France's parliament passed a security bill Thursday to extend police powers despite criticism from civil rights activists who fear it threatens efforts to denounce police abuse.

The bill was approved by 75 votes for and 33 against at the National Assembly, where French President Emmanuel Macron's party, which proposed the measure, has a large majority. The Senate has already adopted the bill.

In an effort to quell criticism, lawmakers have redrafted the most controversial article of the text. It now says helping to identify on-duty police officers "with the obvious intent of harming” will be punished by up to 5 years in prison and a 75,000 euro-fine ($89,800).

Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Paris in November to denounced the initial provision that was making it illegal to publish images of police officers with intent to cause them harm.

Opponents say the new draft still remains vague and subject to interpretation by police officers. They also fear it will intimidate people trying to fight police abuse and discrimination by taking and publishing pictures and videos.

Macron's government said the law was needed to better protect police amid threats and attacks by a violent fringe and increasing harassment on social media.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Thursday praised the "compromise" that lawmakers found on the text. The bill also gives more autonomy to local police and extends the use of surveillance drones, amid other measures.

The French branch of Amnesty International warned on Twitter about the "dangers" the bill posed to civil liberties and denounced its "generalized surveillance practices."

The text has "vague provisions that could allow abusive and unfair legal proceedings,” the rights group said.

The Associated Press