Germany tightens travel ban for militants suspects

The law is the first of a host of previously planned security measures which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government wants to speedily pass

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Germany will tighten a foreign travel ban on known Islamists to stop them heading to war zones such as Syria, the cabinet decided Wednesday, a week after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

The law is the first of a host of previously planned security measures which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government wants to speedily pass through parliament in the coming weeks following the bloodshed in France.

“The horrific events in Paris... showed once more, in a depressing manner, that we must strongly defend our democratic constitutional order with all legal means against international terrorism, fanaticism and radicalization,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert.

German authorities can already confiscate the passports of known militants, but under the new law they will also be able to take away their national identity cards, which can be used for travel to Turkey and within the EU Schengen no-visa area.

Suspects will instead be handed replacement ID cards for periods of up to three years that are stamped with a no-travel advisory in several languages.

More than 600 German citizens have taken part in the fighting in Syria and Iraq, and about 60 have died there, the newspaper Rheinische Post reported, citing security sources.

About 180 are believed to have returned to Germany.

At least 20 Islamists used their identity cards to reach the war zone after having their passports confiscated, Die Welt daily reported Tuesday.

They travelled either overland or by air, some via Belgium or the Netherlands to obscure their movements, and mostly on to Turkey to cross the porous land border into Syria, according to the interior ministry.

The bill must still pass parliament, where the government has a strong majority.

Opposition parties have objected to what they have dubbed the new “terrorist-ID”.

The far-left Linke called the measure “disproportionate” and stigmatising for suspects, while Greens party lawmaker Irene Mihalic warned that suspected radicals who are asked to give up their ID cards “may move immediately to realize their sinister plans”.

Germany also plans this month to criminalize any planning to join militant fighting or weapons-training abroad, tightening a law from 2009 that punishes offenders only when they return.

The law would target, for example, suspects trying to leave Germany with weapons, bulletproof vests or night vision equipment.

“There will be a new law to make it a crime for militants to leave the country,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas said, adding that it would bring Germany into compliance with a U.N. resolution to stop so-called foreign fighters.

Maas also wants to push through a bill to toughen penalties for terrorist financing, even when the amounts are very small.

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