Michel presents package of new anti-terror measures


The federal government presented its new package of anti-terrorism measures yesterday, which includes jailing fighters who return from Syria and closing down non-recognised mosques

€400 million budget

Prime minister Charles Michel (pictured) presented the federal government’s package of anti-terrorism measures yesterday following the attacks in Paris last weekend. It involves government spending of €400 million, which includes €200 million each from the 2016 and 2015 budgets.

The measures touch on four areas. Hate speech and incitements to violence should not be taken lightly, said Michel, and websites carrying such messages will be taken down. Mosques with no official recognition will be closed and the training of imams more closely monitored. Those preaching messages of hate and violence can be imprisoned or deported.

Those who travel to Syria and Iraq to fight on the side of radical groups like IS will be imprisoned on their return to Belgium. Those who are considered at risk of becoming jihadi fighters can be fitted with an electronic ankle-band to allow their movements to be monitored.

A large part of the budget goes to spending on police and the justice system. Police will be supplied with number-plate scanners and new technology for phone-tapping and camera surveillance. They will also have the power to carry out search warrants around the clock, while the time allowed for a suspect to be detained without being brought before a court is extended from 24 to 72 hours.

Eyes of the world on Belgium

Police patrols will return to Belgian border posts, and more than 500 military personnel will be detailed to patrol the streets and guard public buildings.

Finally, Michel called for an international coalition to combat IS. The Belgian air force, alternating with their Dutch counterparts, will take part in air attacks on IS targets, he said.

There will be more threats, more attacks, more suffering

- Prime minister Charles Michel

One of the measures was criticised by the Ghent-based League for Human Rights. “Putting every returning Syria fighter behind bars is judicial nonsense,” said the league’s president, lawyer Jos Vander Velpen. “It is up to the judiciary to decide if someone who has been arrested should remain in custody. It is not for the government … to ignore the power of the judiciary.”

Also yesterday, the Paris prosecutor confirmed rumours that the apparent mastermind behind the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud of Brussels had indeed been killed in a police raid a day earlier in the Saint-Denis quarter of Paris.

Michel’s presentation of the measures was being seen as the most important speech of his career, knowing that the eyes of the world were upon Belgium following the revelation of the involvement of a group from Brussels in the Paris attacks.

“There will be more threats, more attacks, more suffering,” said Michel. “But we must not give in to panic, or divisions, or accusations, or revenge. We do not in this parliament all share the same political or philosophical convictions, but let us more than ever work to overcome our differences and unite.”

Photo: Yves Herman/REUTERS