82% of Europe's terrorist prisoners are Jihadists, report reveals

A new report, published by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR), reveals that of the more than 1,400 individuals held on terrorism-related charges across 10 European countries, 82% are "Jihadists".

There are currently more people in jail on terrorism-related offences in Europe than at any point in the last two decades.

France is detaining most of them, 549. Spain follows with 329 people jailed, while 238 are detained in the UK and 136 in Belgium

Other countries mentioned in the report are Sweden (53 prisoners), Netherlands (36), Norway (34), Greece (around 20) and Norway (19).

The size of the terrorism-linked prison population jumps to more than 3,000 if we also take into account those inmates being "monitored for signs of their radicalisation". 54% of prisoners monitored for signs of extremism entered jail as "regular" criminals, and not on terrorism charges.

In England and Wales 183 prisoners are, according to the report, recognised as Jihadists, with a further 450 being monitored for radicalisation. The UK has only one dedicated unit for extremists, with a capacity of just eight inmates. France, by comparison, is increasing its own such capacity to 1,500.

For some terrorists, prison was a place for radicalisation and recruitment, in which inmates with no previous involvement in politically motivated violence could be exposed to extremist ideas – often at particularly vulnerable points in their lives... Needless to say, prison also served operational purposes: it was a place in which terrorists formed networks, established hierarchies, developed strategies, and plotted attacks.

ISCR report.

The problem of radicalisation in prisons, much discussed but apparently inadequately addressed, comes into sharp focus with the revelation that there have been 22 prison‑related plots: attacks that followed an inmate’s release; plots the perpetrators of which met in prison; or attempts to coerce authorities into releasing prisoners. Some 12 of these plots involved jihadists who were only recently released from prison.

The presence of Islamic State fighters returning from Syria and Iraq, defeated and disillusioned, can potentially aggravate this situation. Islamic State’s religious police, however, is said to have continued its work within Europe's prison walls.

The report highlights the fact that there appear to be more women, among such prisoners, as well as a small but growing number of far-right extremists.

Whereas a decade ago it was almost unheard of for women to be protagonists in the jihadist scene – and those involved were generally seen as ‘victims’ of their radical husbands’ wills – in recent years Europe has witnessed female propagandists, recruiters, travellers to Islamic State territory, and attack planners. This change was heralded with the 2016 Notre‐Dame bomb plot in Paris, which involved a three‐woman cell that attempted to explode a car, filled with gas canisters, near the cathedral. Their attempt failed and the women were arrested and convicted for the attack. Three further all‐female plots in the UK further underlined the potential for women to be involved in violent extremism.

ISCR report.

The number of women currently incarcerated for terrorist offences in Europe today stands at around 10% of the total: somewhat tellingly, this reflects the proportion of women who travelled from Europe to Syria and Iraq.

The question of how to deal with Jihadists returning from those countries is one yet to be adequately addressed.

The full report, Prisons and Terrorism: Extremist Offender Management in 10 European Countries, can be accessed here.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon


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