June 12, 2015 / 12:53 PM / in 2 years

Belgium to revoke passports of suspected Islamist fighters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The Belgian government proposed a law on Friday which will invalidate passports and identity cards of people authorities believe plan to go and fight for militant Islamist organizations in the Middle East.

The measure, which has to be approved by parliament, is a response to Belgium’s position as the source of many foreigners fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Some 300 mostly young men are estimated to have left the country of 11 million inhabitants over the past few years to fight for organizations such as Islamic State, one of the largest per capita contributors in western Europe.

“The new law allows us to make leaving Belgian territory with the intention of engaging in terrorist acts a criminal offense,” Justice Minister Koen Geens said.

Authorities could invalidate identity cards or refuse to issue passports to somebody suspected of wanting to leave for Syria or Iraq to fight, he added.

Similar provisions also exist in other European countries such as Britain and Denmark.

Belgians can travel with identity cards to all EU countries and others outside, such as Turkey, a transit nation for many heading for Syria and Iraq.

The government also widened the list of cases in which a judge can approve phone taps to include acts such as recruiting for or motivating others to commit acts of terrorism.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Sabina Zawadzki; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Dominic Evans

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