Spain released almost 40 suspected jihadists in 2020

by Lorraine Williamson

MADRID – Europol warns in a report about radicalisation in Spanish prisons and the security risks associated with releasing radicalised persons without a proper reintegration process. 

In 2020, Spain released 39 suspected jihadists from prison. They had either served their sentences or were allowed to await their trial in freedom. Europol makes this known in the 2021 EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report. 

The same report, which analyses the European terror threat, warns of the risks of releasing suspected jihadists without reintegration.  And furthermore, without making sure that they have given up jihadist ideology. 

According to the Spanish news site NIUS diario, this situation is also happening in Spain. According to their information, there were no signs of reintegration among the suspected extremists released in 2020. ‘A security risk’ according to Europol’s report. 

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A possible attack in Spain 

The danger is not only lurking after release. The report also points to the danger of radicalisation within Spanish prisons. Prisoners convicted of crimes unrelated to jihadism are recruited in prison by their more radical inmates. 

Europol cites a recent case in the prison of Las Palmas as an example. A 32-year-old prisoner serving a sentence for murder and armed robbery was found to be extremely radicalised. From his cell, he was recruiting Muslim prisoners in several Spanish prisons. The plan was to carry out an attack on Spanish territory after his release, using the logistical resources from the criminal networks with which he had collaborated in prison. 

Thanks to an investigation, Spanish agents tracked down his plans and were able to detain the extremist in his cell last December on suspicion of terrorism. 

Criminal activities to finance terrorism 

In order to obtain financing, terrorist organisations engage in other criminal networks and activities. The report shows that different organisations can also be financially linked in Spain. For example, recent arrests of 16 motorcycle gang members in Spain revealed that the motorcycle gang in question, through illegal drug trafficking, financed neo-Nazis and racial violence. This event does not stand alone. It coincides with the years of Europol’s fight against the financing of terrorism. 

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