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France passes new law to ban 'gangs'

President Sarkozy's law-and-order push now includes three years in jail or a 45,000 euro fine for being a member of a gang.

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On Monday, the French legislature passed a radical new law making it illegal to be part of a "gang" – if it's one that has been or may be violent.

The move is part of a recent law-and-order initiative by President Nicolas Sarkozy that the French palace is tying to new forms of youth crime at a time of economic crisis. Earlier this month, France banned the wearing of masks during public protests.

The new antigang law says that anyone identified with a group, formal or informal, known by police to have committed criminal acts, or is intending to, may be subject to a three-year sentence or a 45,000 euro (US$63,000) fine.

Christian Estrosi, of Mr. Sarkozy's ruling center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, spearheaded the new antigang law that passed late Monday night.

Lawmakers on the left and a wide swath of French writers have attacked the law for crudity, for vagueness in defining what constitutes a gang, and for essentially criminalizing intent among persons associating with groups or gangs identified as culpable, even if they have not participated in illegal behavior.

The new measure allows police to make arrests of known gangs, but also in cases of spontaneous outbreaks of violence where gangs or mobs form quickly.


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