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EU Terror Chief: Put Terrorists In Rehab Instead Of Prison

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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The European Union’s counter-terrorism coordinator believes prisons radicalize terrorists even further and suggests European countries consider rehabilitation programs instead.

Gilles de Kerchove, the senior EU counter-terrorism official, criticized the way European countries handle returning Islamic State fighters to their homes. Rather than using them to deter other teenagers from joining ISIS, they put the fighters in prison where their jihadi beliefs are magnified, de Kerchove argues.

“Prisons are major incubators of radicalization,”de Kerchove said Saturday, according to The Guardian. “Therefore, if you can avoid prison for those who do not have blood on their hands and are genuinely ready to engage in a rehabilitation program, why don’t we try alternatives?”

De Kerchove wants foreign fighters who just “wash dishes” for ISIS to get a second chance after going through a rehabilitation program.

“If there is no evidence that they are an active jihadi – for instance, they crossed the border and spent a week with the organization but were really just washing dishes, a fourth-rank foot soldier, then saw people beheaded and rushed to leave, saying, ‘I made a big mistake’ – is it really worth putting them on the trail that leads to prison?” De Kerchove asked himself.

De Kerchove is particularly critical of the way his native country Belgium handles radicalization. There are currently no alternative to prisons in place, which does nothing to stop the spreading of radical Islam, he believes.

Jails are generally seen as a prime recruitment base for jihadis. Paris attackers Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam met in prison, where they both are believed to have gotten radicalized.

“The government is trying to develop a de-radicalization policy in prison, but they don’t have one,” de Kerchove said of the Belgian system. “I am strongly in favor of the member states who have quite a high number of returnees developing a rehabilitation program.”

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