Monday, October 5, 2009

Terrorist Sentencing and the Problem With Early Release

Nothing ever good came from releasing hardened terrorists from prison early.

And, no... I'm not talking about people like the Uighers either.

I'm talking about the guys who have been convicted of terrorist related offenses, served time and then get out.

Now I know there is, of course, no stopping the evolution of justice. If one commits a crime for which they are found guilty and they serve out the duration of their sentence in prison without incident, then they, by all fair and just democratic standards, must be released.

But what if they remain a threat to society?

It was reported Monday in the British press

"Up to 30 “high-risk” terrorists — including some of the most dangerous men in Britain — are due to be released from jail in the next year. More are being freed in the wake of a ruling by Britain’s most senior judges that long sentences for terrorist crimes could “inflame” rather than deter extremism."

It is surprising that the Brits are letting these guys go, especially after the uproar last March, when the newspaper headlines read:

"Radical Muslim terrorist released from prison early to ease overcrowding"

A story which led to new headlines, including:

"Early release of terrorists prompts Straw to rethink prisons policy"

In prison, out of prison.... either way radicalism is a problem. But outside of prison, the potential to act on that radicalism is magnified.

Let me give you some examples.

Safe Bourada, a French-Algerian terrorist, was convicted in 1998 for a terrorist attack in Paris in 1995. His sentence? Ten years. Which means he was set to be released in 2008. Now I'm not saying five extra years in the pen would have reformed his warped mind, but after he was released in 2003 he went on to create a new terror cell (converting two of his operatives to Islam) for which he was rearrested in 2005. Sad Safe is pictured, left, at his second terrorism trial in France.

But if he had not been released early, would things have been different?

British national Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man convicted of participating in the kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl, was first thrown into an Indian prison in 1994 for his role in the kidnapping of a group of British tourists in India. But he was later traded to the Taliban for the release of another set of hostages in 1999.

He went on to train in the Taliban's terrorist camps before pilfering Pearl.

Allekema Lamari member of the Madrid train bomb network which launched an attack which killed 191 people, spent five years in prison for belonging to a terrorist organization. In prison, his extremists views were nurtured and strengthened.

Mitch Silbur of the New York Police Department Intelligence Unit writes about Lamari:

"Allekema Lamari, who had been arrested in 1997 for belonging to an Algerian extremist group, had already been radicalized. However, according to open source, his five year stint in prison nurtured his extremist views and actually intensified his radical mindset. During his incarceration, Lamari joined an Algerian Islamist prison group."

So basically, the authorities knew he was bad news when they let him go, but they had to let him go anyway.

Raphael Gendron (right), a French convert to Islam, was imprisoned for inciting hatred against non-Muslims in 2006. After his release, this high level al Qaeda recruiter was busted with buddy Bassam Ayachi (left) for human smuggling. While in prison, the two were discovered planning an attack on the Charles de Gaulle airport from their cell!

Safe to say, that doesn't bode well for their case.

Members of the Martyrs for Morocco, the group that launched a plot against the Spanish National court, created the organization in prison and recruited inmates, some who went on to be released in hopes of making the plot operational.

The point is, many of those who are actively engaged in the fight against terrorism on a professional level will tell you, the best way to get terrorists is to catch them in the act of a minor crime since conspiracy to commit terrorism is a much more difficult crime to prove in court.

But that also means that sometimes, the system is unable to hand down a significantly deterring sentence as punishment for these terrorists. We need to make sure that if these operatives and their associates present a threat to national security, they are punished and continue to be so accordingly.

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