PARIS (Reuters) - France needs to get tough on militants by creating special courts and detention facilities to boost security, the country's former President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a interview published in Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD).
The French capital was once again put on high alert last Sunday after a car loaded with gas cylinders was found near Notre Dame cathedral in an incident that could have been an attack on a Paris railway station.
Security is a key topic in the presidential elections in 2017, as more than 230 people have been killed in militant Islamist attacks on French soil since January 2015.
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Sarkozy's comments come after French President Francois Hollande, a Socialist, took a swipe at his opponents this week, saying their hardline reactions to a wave of militant attacks demonstrated an intent to destroy France's social model.
Sarkozy took an even tougher approach on Sunday by proposing to systematically place French citizens, suspected of having militant links, in special detention facilities.
"Every Frenchman suspected of being linked to terrorism, because he regularly consults a jihadist website, or his behavior shows signs of radicalization or because is in close contact with radicalized people, must by preventively placed in a detention center," Sarkozy said in the interview.
Sarkozy, who announced last month his candidacy for the April 2017 presidential election, has said there is no place for "legal niceties" in the fight against terrorism.
According to French Institute for Public Opinion, Ifop, voters turned out to have most confidence in former Prime Minister Alain Juppe to guarantee security, with Sarkozy in second place, Prime Minister Manuel Valls in third, and Hollande a distant 8th.
French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said in a separate interview with the French newspaper on Sunday he planned to make proposals next week to Valls to ease prison overcrowding.
"I do not advocate creation of facilities dedicated to terrorists...The real challenge is to prepare the release of those who are sentenced for a short or medium term," Urvoas said.
(Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Diane Craft)