Paris (CNSNews.com) – The news that around 40 Islamic jihadists will complete their prison sentences and be released into society between now and the end of next year has set off alarm bells in France, where some fear they may return to violence.
The numbers were mentioned in a recent television interview by the Paris prosecutor in charge of terrorism, François Molins, who said, “There is a major risk in seeing people who are not at all repentant or have become harder or even more radicalized, out of jails.”
Lawmaker Eric Ciotti, a member of Les Républicains' party, has called for strong measures to keep a close watch on released radicals. He said in a radio interview that some the former prisoners “remain extremely dangerous” and were akin to “time bombs.”
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, former presidential candidate and leader of the right wing France Arise movement, suggested France needs to build a Guantanamo-type prison, but even National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who is close to Dupont-Aignan, rejected the idea.
Le Pen said, however, that the government is to blame for the troubling situation because it is not sufficiently tough on Islamist fundamentalism.
Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet has tried to allay the fears, saying in an interview the released radicals will be monitored.
“We have put in place a series of operational means that allow us to think that we are able to follow these people who come out of detention,” she said.
Belloubet also pointed out that the radicals were evaluated by doctors, psychologists, educators and others when they arrive in prison, to assess the level of risk they pose.
Currently, according to ministry of justice figures, more than 500 people are serving prison terms for terrorism, while more than 1,200 inmates are regarded as “radicalized.”
Jean-Charles Brisard, chairman of the Paris-based Center for the Analysis of Terrorism (CAT), said that according to the center’s calculations, 115 jihadists will be released from prison by 2020.
“There is a plan of action implemented by intelligence services to monitor them and to reassess their dangerousness once they are out of jail,” he said.
Brisard said it was well known “that the risk of extreme radicalization or of a second offense is high among those people.”
Under new terrorism legislation, adopted last year, intelligence and police forces are permitted to monitor such people closely, listen to their phone calls, read their Internet communications, and carry out house searches.
The law also provided for stiffened sentences for terror offenses. Prior to the new law coming in, “returnees” from Iraq or Syria received sentences of six years’ imprisonment on average.
Today, any person who is arrested for preparing or carrying out a terrorist act can be sentenced to 30 years in jail, compared to a 20-year maximum before. The law also says that jailed terrorists may not have their sentences reduced, as can happen with those convicted of other crimes.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe this week announced that his government was preparing a new anti-terrorism action plan. Details are sparse, but it reportedly includes 60 measures and among other things should create more facilities in prison to isolate radicalized prisoners.