Those convicted of supporting and recruiting for Daesh in recent years have reached a point in time where they may be due for release. They were sent to prison at a time when Daesh was carving a co-called “caliphate” out of Syria and Iraq. Hundreds of European Muslims fled to join the terrorists including teenagers who ditched their school studies to become jihadis.
In the United Kingdom, 80 out of the 193 prison terms handed down by the courts for terrorism offences will run out by the end of this year. The Guardian recently reported that the figure for those released could indeed be higher as many leave prison halfway through their sentence. Among those expected to walk to freedom soon is the hate preacher Anjem Choudary who founded al-Muhajiroun, a group responsible for nearly half the terror attacks in the UK in the early 2000s (though no suggestion that Choudary was involved directly in those crimes).
As the former head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command Richard Walton outlined, those leaving prison may lie low after release:
In essence, however, former convicted terrorist offenders are a worrying risk pool for MI5 and counter-terrorist policing. Intelligence is often insufficient to gauge whether they have any intent to reoffend owing to their recent incarceration. Those intending to reoffend also often ‘lay low’ for a period as they know that there will be close attention on them after release.
In France, the concern is that released inmates may be more extreme on leaving prison than they were on going in. Paris prosecutor François Molins stated this on French TV:
We run a huge risk: seeing people leave prison at the end of their sentences who will not have reformed at all, who are potentially even more extreme as a result of their time inside.
Some of those being released in France have very serious convictions but they date back to the turn of the millennium. Djamel Beghal was first convicted of a terror offence back in 2001. Though Beghal has been deported already to his native Algeria. Already, in the recent past, there have been fatal attacks by individuals convicted then released on terror offences and the French authorities are concerned this pattern could both repeat and increase.