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French justice minister's resignation highlights cracks over controversial citizenship bill

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By Euronews
French justice minister's resignation highlights cracks over controversial citizenship bill

One anti-racist organisation in France is praising Christiane Taubira, who has resigned as Justice Minister, as a “great lady.”

The citizenship bill, which she objects to, is popular among conservatives and the far right, but it is divisive when it comes to the governing Socialists.

At the moment, Article 25 of the Constitution states that an individual who acquired French nationality can be stripped of it
if they’ve been convicted of “undermining the fundamental interests of the nation,” taking part in a terrorist act, or committing a crime “that is delivered to the benefit of a foreign state for acts incompatible with the quality of French and detrimental to the interests of France.”

Only people who have had French citizenship for less than 10 years can have it taken away.

The period is extended to 15 years, if they have committed a crime or offence constituting a “breach of fundamental interests of the nation.”

The Paris attacks left 130 people dead and hundreds more wounded.

French and Belgian extremists, linked to ISIL, are said to have been behind them. Some of them of Moroccan descent.

The main reform that has been proposed is the ability to revoke citizenship from convicted terrorists who are born with dual nationality, not just those who acquire it later in life.

It requires a revision of Article 34 of France’s constitution.

“This is a severe penalty that the nation is rightfully entitled to impose on those who commits the utmost betrayal,” said Manuel Valls, French Prime Minister.

Opponents of the measure say it would create two classes of citizens. Dual nationals who could lose their citizenship and others who cannot.

Back in 2010, then French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that “French nationality shall be withdrawn from any person of foreign origin, who has deliberately undermined the life of a police officer or a military gendarmerie.”

The same year, Francois Hollande said “Deprivation of citizenship – is it going to improve anything about the protection and safety of our citizens? No. Is it consistent with our history, our traditions, our constitution? Why do we call into question these basic principles?”

Six years on, it now seems there is a dramatic change of heart, much to the delight of the far right.

“As for dual nationality, participants of Islamist movements must be stripped of their nationality,” said Marine Le Pen, of the National Front.

And this support is echoed amongst most of the French population, according to polls.

But there is a fear among critics that the move would unfairly target Muslims. Some are comparing it to the revocation of citizenship of French Jews during World War Two.