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Italian Government Approves New Anti-Terrrorism Measures

  • Sabina Castelfranco

A day after a second series of attacks this month in London, the Italian government approved a package of anti-terrorism measures. Security was also increased on Italy's transport system as the country's defense minister said intelligence services believed new threats against Italy were credible.

Italians in the streets are nervous that they too will soon be targeted by Islamic terrorism. Since the first bombings in London on July 7, the Rome government has been debating which measures it should take to face up to the risks.

On Friday the government unanimously approved a package of new anti-terror measures.

Italy has recently been mentioned as a future target in a number of messages posted on the Internet. The latest statement signed by the Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades claiming responsibility for the London attacks threatened Italy as well as other European nations.

Defense Minister Antonio Martini said Friday that intelligence services in this country are taking the threats seriously adding that they are considered credible. Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu drew up the new anti-terror measures.

The terror threat is with us every day and the objective of these prevention measures is not just temporary.

The new package of measures makes it easier for the authorities to detain suspects and expel them. People believed to be involved in terrorist activities can now be held for 24 hours without charges and without the presence of a lawyer. Until now they could only be held for 12 hours.

Authorities will also be able to take saliva samples from suspects for DNA tests. They will improve surveillance of the Internet and phone networks. Data will be kept for at least 24 months. Investigators will be able to freeze assets.

The new measures also make it a crime to train people to prepare or use explosives without government authorization.

In addition, authorities will be able to provide residence permits of at least one year to immigrants who collaborate giving details on terror activities or cells. Residence permits will be granted to those whose information leads to effective results.

Some of the new measures were pushed for by the Northern League party, which had said the initial plan proposed by the interior minister was too soft. Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, a member of that party, expressed satisfaction.

I think that it would have been difficult to reach a better result. We approved a whole series of measures, which are absolutely effective and did the most that could be done.

The Northern League had called for the suspension of the European Union open-borders agreement and the creation of a single "super-prosecutor" to coordinate anti-terror investigations across Italy.

The Italian government decided to keep the open borders agreement in place but heightened security on Italy's transport system. It approved the plan to create a super prosecutor for terrorism, which will be presented to parliament.

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