French justice minister Nicole Belloubet has announced details of a new national anti-terrorist office to deal with threats including 254 convicted Islamic terrorists set for release from various prisons by 2022.
Created earlier this year, the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (PNAT) is expected to begin its formal operations on July 1st and one of its most important operations, according to Ms Belloubet, will be the tracking of convicted Islamic terrorists who have been released from prison, Le Monde reports.
Belloubet said that currently there are 510 individuals being held in French prisons following convictions for Islamist terrorism, but around half — 254 — will likely be released by 2022.
Along with the 510 convicted of terrorism, Belloubet said that she believed there to be another 943 prisoners who were convicted of other offences and radicalised in prison.
To deal with radicalisation, the minister said that the government had developed 1,500 or so cells in blocks where radicalisation could be assessed, and a further 600 cells would be developed to deradicalise extremists.
When asked how the new PNAT would change France’s fight against terrorism, Belloubet claimed it was “a real anti-terrorist strike force” and that the organisation would be independent of the considerations of the Paris prosecutor’s office.
“The National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office will also deal with crimes against humanity to strengthen action in this area,” she added.
Certain French prisons have become known as hotbeds for both Islamic radicalisation and for violence from radicalised prisoners, including an incident earlier in March this year when a radicalised inmate stabbed two prison guards at a high-security prison in Conde-sur-Sarthe in Normandy.
Some radicalised inmates have gone even further, plotting terrorist attacks upon their release. In 2017, two inmates of Fresnes prison were caught not only plotting to commit attacks but also communicating directly with members of Islamic State through mobile phones they had smuggled into the prison.