French president Hollande vows stiffer penalties for hate speech

French president Hollande vows stiffer penalties for hate speech
French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during the 30th annual dinner held by the French Jewish Institutions Representative Council (Conseil Representatif des Institutions juives de France - CRIF) in Paris on February 23, 2015.

PARIS - French President Francois Hollande vowed Monday to introduce tougher penalties for "racist, anti-semitic or homophobic" remarks in the wake of last month's terrorist attacks in Paris.

Speaking at an annual dinner hosted by the country's Jewish community, Hollande called for "faster, more effective sanctions" against hate speech and added: "I want such speech to come under criminal law rather than press laws."

Hollande said anti-semitism should be treated as an aggravating circumstance in the prosecution of all offences.

Would-be jihadists would also face stiffer punishment under a draft intelligence bill to be unveiled next month, he said.

Earlier Monday, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that the authorities had confiscated the passports of six people suspected of planning to travel to the Middle East to wage jihad.

France is still on high alert following January's shooting rampage by three jihadists who attacked the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, a Jewish supermarket and police officers in a three-day campaign of terror that left 17 dead, including four Jews.

The attacks were the worst in France in decades.

The violence in Paris and more recently in Copenhagen, where two people were shot dead in attacks on a cultural centre and a synagogue, has sparked fears of a major threat from radical Islamists.

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