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French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has ruled out sharing details of individuals on the intelligence services’ watch list with town mayors, he told weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.
Suspects on the so-called “Fiche S” watch list are “under surveillance but not under official investigation because they have not been proven to have committed any offence”, Cazeneuve told the Sunday newspaper. “Keeping this information confidential is essential if investigations are to run their course.”
“We must find a way of getting mayors involved in preventing radicalisation in a way that does not hamper the efforts of the intelligence services,” Cazeneuve added. “The vast majority of mayors understand this very well.”
‘State of Emergency’
In September Guy Lefrand, conservative mayor of the Normandy town of Evreux, demanded that the intelligence services share the names of people living in his town who are suspected of being radicalised.
“France is under a state of emergency, and it is the duty of the state to give us access to the ‘S’ list,” Lefrand told reporters in September. “If the state won’t provide this information, I demand that they take the responsibility for removing these people from my town.”
Conservative presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, who was president of France from 2007 to 2012, said on Friday that if he was re-elected he would immediately hold a referendum on whether “the most dangerous suspects on the ‘Fiche S’ should be kept in administrative detention”.
Cazeneuve rejected this view: “Detaining individuals who haven’t committed any crime just because they have been caught by the radar of the intelligence services is inefficient, unconstitutional and contrary to the values of the French Republic.”
He insisted that the intelligence services efforts were paying off, citing the arrest this year of 355 people with alleged links to terror groups.
“Less than 20 people have managed to leave the country [to fight overseas] since the beginning of the year,” he said.
The ‘Fiche S’ watch list
The “S” (which stands for Safety of the state) is a police and intelligence designation that has existed since the late 1960s.
It is used to describe anyone who is a potential security threat. It is not restricted to potential Islamist terrorists, but also includes (among others) football hooligans, extreme right and left-wing activists and radical environmentalists.
Last week, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said there were currently 10,500 people on the “Fiche S” watch list, which has 16 sub-categories based on an individual’s threat potential.
Islamists who have travelled overseas to wage jihad and have since returned to France are categorised as “S14”.