French man jailed for visiting pro-IS websites

Commemoration of Paris terror attacks Image copyright EPA
Image caption France drafted new laws following a series of terror attacks in the country

A French man has been sentenced to two years in jail for repeatedly visiting websites that back the so-called Islamic State terror group.

French police said there was no evidence the man was planning a terror attack despite the regular visits.

The man said he visited the sites to help him understand the difference between "real" and "false" Islam.

Rights groups said the sentence was "excessive" and said visiting a site did not make someone a terrorist.

Changed behaviour

The unnamed man came to the attention of French police during a surveillance operation on another person living in the same region of France - the Ardeche.

Police raided the suspect's house and found pro-IS pictures and video clips on his smartphone, computer and USB sticks.

In court, the man said his repeated visits to the pro-IS sites over the last two years was motivated by "curiosity". He said he only looked at the pro-IS sites and never sought views from other news organisations.

News site France Blue reported that his family testified that his interest in the sites had made him less tolerant of discussion about religion and led to changes in the way he dressed.

The Ardeche case is one of several brought under the controversial French law criminalising "habitual" visits to sites that promote terrorism. Two of these cases have resulted in convictions. The law was one of several measures brought in after repeated attacks in France by Islamic militants.

The law is set to be appraised by France's constitutional council by the end of February next year to see if it violates the nation's basic legal framework.

Patrick Baudouin, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, told news site The Verge that he felt the two-year sentence was "excessive", adding that it showed how legal standards had been eroded by security fears.

More on this story