Wednesday, October 10, 2018

More Than 300 People Convicted of Terrorist Offences in Belgium ‘in Recent Years’

According to Belgium’s federal prosecutor, the European nation has seen well over 300 convictions relating to terrorism offences, many with a radical Islamic background.  

Federal prosecutor Frédéric van Leeuw said the country, that boasts a population of just over 11 million, has seen over 360 convictions as of September for terrorism from neo-Nazis to radical Islamists, Sveriges Radio reports.  

"In September this year, over 360 people convicted in Belgium in recent years have been convicted of having participated in a terrorist group’s activities," Mr van Leeuw said.  

Looking at the number of convictions in the UK since 2001, there were 716 terror convictions in the UK out of a total of 1,043 individuals brought up on terrorism charges, according to a report released in June. Britain’s population's almost 6 times that of Belgium.  

The UK report also noted there are 183 prisoners currently serving sentences for terror offences, 88% of them being Muslims. France, meanwhile, houses around 500 prisoners found guilty of terror charges, with hundreds of them set for release by the end of 2019.  

In Sweden, the number of convictions for terrorism has been considerably lower than both the UK and Belgium with only 6 people being convicted of terrorism offences.  

Part of the reason's due to Swedish law doesn't criminalise being a member of a terrorist group or even fighting on behalf of one but only looks at those planning or having committed a terror attack.  

The number of convictions is also low considering reports from international investigators who say they see more and more links to terror cases in the country and experts like researcher Peder Hyllengren of the Swedish Defence College have labelled the country a base for international jihadism.  

Prosecutor Van Leeuw spoke highly of Belgian terror laws saying, "There maybe statements from the person in social media, that can be pictures, evidence from the battlefield, statements from relatives, so we have great opportunities to gather evidence," but noted the difficulty in acquiring evidence regarding returning radicals from the Middle East.

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