French Judges Swamped by Terror-Related Cases

By Fayçal Benhassain | October 6, 2016 | 8:39pm EDT
Paris anti-terrorism prosecutor François Molins. (AP Photo, File)

Paris ( – The number of investigations into people leaving France to join radical jihadist groups, monitoring of suspect groups and follow ups on attacks already carried out are threatening to overwhelm the French anti-terror police and judicial systems.

Last week, a 15 year-old student living the Val-d'Oise north of Paris, was indicted and jailed on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack. Investigators said he had been in contact via the free encrypted messaging app Telegram with Rachid Kassim, a leading French jihadist fighting in Syria.

A few weeks earlier, around ten teenagers were arrested on suspicion of planning attacks, including two young girls from Nice. They too were said by police to be under the influence of Kassim, who has been urging young French Muslims to carry out attacks.

Others arrested since the beginning of September include French woman Anne Clain, her Tunisian husband, Mohammed Amry, and one of their daughters, age 16, detained at Roissy airport after returning from a trip to Turkey.

Clain’s brother, Fabien Clain, is a convert to Islam and well known French jihadist who has been fighting in the Iraq-Syrian border area since 2015.

Police and prosecutors are swamped by work and don’t have time to deal with all the cases before them.

Even before the spate of arrests since the beginning of September, the numbers were startling. Paris prosecutor François Molins said in an interview in French media early last month that his jurisdiction was handling 324 cases, compared to 135 in 2015 and 26 in 2013.

“But so far, only 25 cases have been tried or are awaiting trial, which gives an idea of the work ahead,” he said at the time. A total of 300 people have been indicted for Islamic terrorism and 577 are subject to an arrest warrant, Molins added.

Other anti-terror judges are also working on an increasing number of cases relating to radical Islamists, opening a new investigation every two days on average. Judges said that they were surprised to see how many young girls, even minors younger than 15, were involved.

“It is an unprecedented situation,” said Jean-Michel Hayat, the president of the High Court in Paris. “It is a completely new situation that we are facing today. All investigative judges have 80 per cent more cases to work on now. That is why we need to have more judges to work in the terror cases to do our job the best way possible”.

French authorities are expecting the situation to get even worse, with the probable return of jihadists fleeing from the warzone as the offensive against ISIS advances.

Molins has announced he will toughen his stance and judge all those who went to Syria to join the jihad in special courts.

Although the government will not change its criminal code, magistrates plan to seek harsher penalties against perpetrators of terrorist acts and even against those who had not committed any but were ready to do so.

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