Posts Tagged ‘prisons’

A final piece on the Anjem Choudary jailing, this time for the Telegraph. Am sure in due course there will be more about him, though hopefully this conviction will keep him quiet for a while. Aside from this, it has been a fairly quiet August which have been keeping myself busy with lots of other things and longer writing projects which will land in due course. Aside from the piece, spoke to the Telegaph again about Choudary, as well as the Wall Street Journal for this longer interesting piece looking at jihadis using smuggling routes around Europe. And just today to the Guardian about a car bombing at the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek  – details a bit early on this one, but whatever transpires it will be an interesting development around China becoming targeted by terrorists abroad.

The Least Bad Way to Imprison Extremists

The Ministry of Justice’s policy of isolation offers no hope of rehabilitation

Radicalisation to violence is a deeply personal process. It’s about an individual making a set of choices for their own reasons within a broader political context that leads them to turn against a society into which they were born. This makes it very difficult to counter and even harder to remove once it has been embraced. Few effective solutions exist, and they are even harder to implement inside a prison.

Last week’s prosecution of the extremist preacher Anjem Choudary – along with a number of his acolytes from the now-banned al-Muhajiroun organisation – means the prison system will again be absorbing a new batch of radicals into a population of alienated and sometimes violent young men who are vulnerable to their message. Managing them will be a complicated process, so the Ministry of Justice has announced a new approach: the “most dangerous” extremist prisoners will be isolated from the general population in special high-security units. But will it work?

We are dealing with a very small number of people. Most of the Islamist terror plots hatched in the UK over the past 20 years – and even some of those unfolding in Europe – can be linked in some way with al-Muhajiroun and its graduates. Authorities have not been ignorant, and a persistent policing and intelligence effort has disrupted their activities, including an attentive effort that sweeps them periodically off the streets when they overstep the line of the law for whatever reason.

Yet this is not a permanent solution. In many cases these individuals serve a limited time before returning to their earlier activity. One Choudary associate, Trevor Brooks, was recently caught on a train to Turkey in breach of his bail conditions despite repeated spells in prison. In short, they are persistent long-term radicals – likely lost causes.

That is not always true. There are cases where people move on from extremism. Although the paths out are as personal and variable as the paths that lead into it, this process can be accelerated or shaped by intensive and engaged mentors who can take a leadership role in the individual’s life and steer them away from their former ideology. That requires two things: isolating them from their old groups and leaders, and offering them a real alternative life they can embrace.

But what do you do with persistent long-term offenders who show no evidence of rejecting their creed and may use prison as an opportunity to further spread it? Ideally you should isolate them from the broader prison community, yet solitary confinement – especially over a sentence of 30 or 40 years – is prohibitively expensive and legally problematic. At the same time, they cannot simply be confined together, free to plot their next moves upon release; the authorities learnt that lesson in Northern Ireland, where paramilitary prisoners packed together in the infamous HMP Maze ended up in effective control of their cell blocks and became a political force.

Until now the government response to this dilemma has been to keep extremist prisoners in confinement or in the general population, moving them regularly so they cannot form strong links. This has its own problems, not least that there aren’t enough prisons in Britain to keep its 100-plus jihadists from meeting each other inside.

In that sense, the new approach is the least bad option. This is not the Maze: each unit will be relatively small and subject to as yet unspecified anti-plotting interventions. It may be that this small but dangerous group of people will always be with us, and that the best we can do without violating our societal principles is to manage them and stop them recruiting – to lock them up when we can, to control their movements and activity once they are out, and to disrupt their ability to spread their ideology in public.

There is a price. Although it is rare, committed long-term extremists do sometimes unexpectedly turn away from their beliefs. As always, this is more likely if they are isolated from comrades and able to socialise with non-extremists, and less likely if not. We will never know how many people we have written off as incorrigible might otherwise have followed this path. It is a balance with no perfect answer – but one which society will probably have to accept.

Raffaello Pantucci is director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute

A piece for a new outlet, War on the Rocks, an online magazine established by some friends formerly of the London War Studies community now in Washington. Good resource with a great roster of writers. The piece offers some thoughts on Mehdi Nemmouche and his alleged attack in Belgium within the context of lone actor terrorism trends and the bigger problem of foreign fighters going to Syria and coming home a problem. Beyond this, I did an interview with Swedish TV about foreign fighters around some interesting cases they have going on, as well as talking to Channel 4 and NBC about the current chaos engulfing Iraq. Per War on the Rocks request, I have only posted the first paragraph here, and the rest can be found after the hyperlinks free of charge.

Mehdi Nemmouche and Syria: Europe’s Foreign Fighter Problem

The capture of Mehdi Nemmouche in France alongside his apparent videoed confession claiming responsibility for a shooting last month at a Jewish museum in Brussels offers the first example of deaths in Europe linked to the battlefield in Syria. EU Counterterrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove has spoken of his expectation of more such small-scale attacks, while European security services grow increasingly concerned about the potential scale of the blowback they might expect from Syria. The key problem that has yet to be grappled with is the necessary community messaging that will persuade people of the negative consequences of joining the fight in Syria.

My latest for the Jamestown Foundation which somewhat builds on previous work I have done for them about Abu Qatada. For those interested, I would naturally commend you to read my previous post looking at his “Comfortable British Jihad” (https://raffaellopantucci.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/abu-qatadas-comfortable-british-jihad/), and I am sure he will be a topic for future writing given the fact that I see no resolution to his current incarceration status (again, sorry for the links, still abroad).

http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35003

British Hostage Threatened with Death Unless Abu Qatada is Released from British Prison

Raffaello Pantucci

Warnings continue to come from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that time is running out for the British government if it wants to obtain the release of a kidnapped British tourist by freeing imprisoned al-Qaeda ideologue Abu Qatada al-Filistini (Ennahar [Algiers], May 2). While Austrian and Canadian hostages were recently released, AQIM issued a statement on April 27 giving the UK government 20 days to release Abu Qatada before their British captive is killed (Guardian, April 27; BBC, April 27). Abu Qatada is currently awaiting possible deportation to Jordan, where he faces a variety of terrorism-related charges (see Terrorism Monitor, July 11, 2008).
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More for the Guardian Comment is Free which is always fun as it attracts some interesting responses and rather immediately too. So far only a few by the looks of it, but maybe more. I also see they still have that diabolical picture of me. This builds on something I have written previously for Jamestown, and would be a fascinating source of further research, but unfortunately no direct leads at the moment. Any thoughts or reactions, or pointers to other interesting work on this subject very welcome.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/03/islam-prisonsandprobation

Comment is free

UK prisons: incubators for terrorism?

If we refuse to help prisoners who convert to Islam in prison, especially after they leave, the indoctrination will continue

Much of the coverage into Dame Anne Owers’ report about Long Lartin prison focused upon the growth of gangs. Conjuring images of television prison violence, one prisoner reported that “all violence is gang related” and the prison was turning into “an American style jail”. An underlying issue that was only hinted at in the report is the problem of the spread of violent Islamist extremist ideas in prisons.

The actual problem itself is very hard to quantify or measure: prison services are notoriously closed mouthed, and the spread of violent Islamist ideologies are hard to measure in any objective way. What is certain, however, is that there are clear precedents of individuals radicalised in British prisons who went on to attempt to carry out terrorist attacks: Richard Reid the “shoe bomber” and 21 July 2005 plot leader Muktar Said Ibrahim were both radicalised while serving prison terms for petty crime, and a significant number of other individuals who have been incarcerated on terrorism charges have also spent some time in prison. Overall it is estimated that there are somewhere between 90 to 130 prisoners currently in Britain’s prisons for “al-Qaida-linked or influenced” offences, including a number who are proselytising leaders like Abu Izzadeen, Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza.

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