Two Frenchmen charged with plotting terror attack from their prison cells

Prosecutors have filed terror charges against two suspected jihadists believed to have been planning to carry out an attack after their upcoming release from prison, sources close to the case said Monday.
The men discussed the would-be plot, which included possibly taking hostages or machine-gunning victims, while they were serving time in Fresnes prison south of Paris.
“These two radical Islamists wanted to set up a group of fighters with the aim of… various actions outside prison,” said one of the probe sources.
One of the suspects is a 28-year-old Cameroonian described by authorities as an Islamic State group sympathizer, while the other is a 22-year-old Frenchman.
Both were behind bars for non-terror offenses and were suspected of being radicalized while serving their sentences. They were charged Friday with being part of a terrorist conspiracy. The Cameroonian man was also believed to have been in contact with a person in Iraq or Syria, where Islamic State is under pressure from a US-led coalition.

French jihadist sentenced to ten years in prison following return from Syria

Nicolas Moreau, a convicted French jihadist who returned from Syria, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for criminal association with a terrorist organization.

The 32-year-old Frenchman was not present at the Paris correctional court since he refused to leave the prison where he is being held for the hearing.

Prosecutors had argued that Moreau presented an “extremely dangerous threat” and warned that he risked returning to his “jihadist commitment” once released.

 

A former fisherman from Nantes, Moreau fell into a life of petty crime before he was radicalised in prison and left France to join the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq. He stayed in the region for nearly a year and a half, according to prosecutors, and even ran a restaurant in the IS group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, during the last three months.

At a hearing on December 14, 2016, Moreau warned the court that if he was sentenced to more than 18 months in jail he would “return to armed combat”.

Born in South Korea and adopted by a French family at the age of four, Moreau lived in the western French city of Nantes and fell into delinquency after his adoptive parents divorced. He was sentenced to five years in jail for violent robbery and converted to Islam while in prison.

It was a trajectory of radicalization similar to his younger brother, Flavien Moreau, who became the first French jihadist to be tried upon his return from Syria. In November 2014, Flavien was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Both the brothers were born in South Korea before they were adopted as infants. But Flavien, the younger brother, spent only a few weeks in IS group-held territory since he was unable to cope with the jihadist group’s no-smoking policy. He entered Syria in November 2012, but returned to France weeks later to pick up an electronic cigarette. He was arrested in Turkey on his way back to Syria. Flavien is currently serving a seven-year term.

During his trial, Nicolas Moreau, the older brother, told the court he left the caliphate because he “became aware of the excesses of Daesh. He told judges he wanted to get married and return to normal life. But he also warned judges that: “If you put a heavy penalty on me, it will be harder to reintegrate me [into society]. I will take up arms again.”

Prosecutors however argued that Nicolas Moreau required a 10-year sentence since “he would return to his jihadist commitment” if released.

Dismissal of prison chaplain over extremism accusations highlights growing tensions between state and Muslim associations in Germany

Model project on prevention

The Ministry of Justice in the state of Hesse has ended its cooperation with an Imam working as a prison chaplain at a correctional facility in the city of Darmstadt. Authorities reacted to advice given by the German domestic intelligence agency (the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz): the agency had classified Imam Abdassamad El-Yazidi as a security risk.

Starting point for this assessment had been El-Yazidi’s association with the organisation Deutsch-Islamischer Vereinsverband Rhein-Main (German-Islamic Associational Union, DIV), deemed since August 2016 to be ‘under extremist influence’ and consequently placed on a surveillance list. El-Yazidi had been the DIV’s chairman until three years ago; presently, he chairs the Hessian chapter of one of the country’s largest Muslim associations, the Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland (Central Council of Muslims in Germany, ZMD), of which the DIV is a member.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/so-treibt-man-verdienstvolle-muslime-ins-innere-exil-14478785.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Complex institutional landscape

This episode highlights the complex institutional landscape of Muslim representation in Germany, with the ZMD being an umbrella body composed of further umbrella organisations. The DIV, which is now in the spotlight, for instance, brings together 46 local associations. One of them, the Europäische Institut für Humanwissenschaften (European Institute for Human Sciences, EIHW), located in the Ostend neighbourhood of Frankfurt, now triggered the intervention by the Verfassungsschutz. The Institut is perceived to be part of a transnational Muslim Brotherhood network. ((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/so-treibt-man-verdienstvolle-muslime-ins-innere-exil-14478785.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Amidst this organisational diversity and fragmentation, El-Yazidi asserted, it was at times impossible for the mostly unpaid volunteers working in the ZMD to scrutinise all aspects of fellow players on the associational scene. At the same time, El-Yazidi also defended decisions to retain contacts with institutions deemed to be under extremist influence, on the grounds that only continued engagement would make it possible to prevent further radicalisation. ((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/so-treibt-man-verdienstvolle-muslime-ins-innere-exil-14478785.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Criticism from Catholic representatives

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, El-Yazidi noted that he had only received a call from the Hessian Ministry of Justice informing him that he had to end his work as a prison chaplain without being given more concrete information about the suspicions directed against him.(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/so-treibt-man-verdienstvolle-muslime-ins-innere-exil-14478785.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Joachim Valentin, responsible for Christian-Muslim understanding at the Catholic bishopric of Limburg and chairman of a Catholic cultural centre in Frankfurt, decried the measure as disrespectful and counter-productive. He criticised the Verfassungsschutz for “failing to differentiate between orthodox Islam, radicalism, extremism, and terror threats.” Blanket accusations and criminalisation would only serve to “drive meritorious Muslims into inner exile.” ((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/so-treibt-man-verdienstvolle-muslime-ins-innere-exil-14478785.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

The ZMD itself reacted with a press release deeming the exclusion of its representative from prevention programmes against radicalisation “incomprehensible”, stressing that so far Hessian authorities and participants had appreciated the collaboration and its effects. ((http://zentralrat.de/28081.php ))

Signs of strain between state and Muslim associations

The affair surrounding chaplain El-Yazidi is only the latest episode in a gradual worsening of the relationship between German authorities and the country’s Muslim associations. In recent months, much of the political discussion has centred on DITIB and the influence of the Erdogan government over this association and its mosques.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/10/17/freiburg-declaration-secular-muslims-starkly-reveals-fault-lines-among-german-muslim-associations/ ))

Yet it is questions of foreign financing and control more generally have taken centre stage, amidst a renewed debate about the (lack of) loyalty Muslim citizens exhibit vis-à-vis the German state. ((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/10/17/old-question-loyalty-german-turks-relationship-erdogan/ )). This prompted the ZMD in its reaction to the El-Yazidi affair to stress its determination to “reject any influencing from abroad, no matter from which country.” ((http://zentralrat.de/28081.php )) Yet recent developments surrounding the EIHW have rekindled voices accusing the ZMD itself to be an apologist of the Muslim Brotherhood. ((http://www.allgemeine-zeitung.de/politik/hessen/im-schatten-der-muslimbrueder_17372765.htm ))

‘Political correctness’ allowing Islamist extremism to flourish in British prisons, report warns

Political correctness in prisons is allowing extremism to flourish because guards are too afraid of confronting Muslims, a report has found.

A review into Islamist extremism in the British justice system has found that “cultural sensitivity” towards Muslim prisoners is preventing staff “challenging unacceptable extremist behaviour and views”.

The report, by Ian Acheson, a former prison governor, warns that supervising staff are being “pressured” to leave prayer rooms during collective worship.

Islamist prisoners are also attempting to prevent searches by “claiming dress is religious” and are also getting access to extremist literature that is available in chaplaincy libraries or from individual prisoners.

Mr Acheson’s report concluded that extremists are “exploiting…staff fear of being labelled racist”.

It also warned that “charismatic Islamist extremist prisoners [are] acting as self-styled ‘emirs’ and exerting a controlling and radicalising influence of the wider Muslim prison population”.

The Government has said that it will implement a number of the report’s recommendations.

Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, has already announced that the most dangerous extremists will be locked up in isolated high-security prisons within prisons to prevent them from radicalising other inmates.

On Monday, she will also announce that governors and prison officers will be given new training to “prevent influential extremist prisoners exerting control and radicalising others”.

Scrutiny of the issue resurfaced last week when it was revealed that Anjem Choudary, one of Britain’s most prominent Islamist clerics, faces years in jail for drumming up support for Islamic State.

Choudary, one of the UK’s most notorious hate preachers, was convicted earlier this year. He will serve 10 years in jail after being found guilty of pledging allegiance to Islamic State.

Life Sentences Upheld for Brothers Convicted in Terror Plot

CAMDEN, N.J. — Three immigrant brothers sentenced to life in prison for plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix will not have their life sentences overturned.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler said in his ruling made public Tuesday that he didn’t buy the arguments from Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka that they were wrongly convicted in 2008 because their lawyers kept them from testifying.

Kugler ruled Friday that he found testimony from their defense attorneys at a January hearing more credible.

ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/life-sentences-upheld-brothers-convicted-terror-plot-39523260

Psych exam ordered for man accused of threatening military

CLEVELAND — A federal judge has ordered a man charged with soliciting people to kill members of the military to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he’s competent to stand trial.
Cleveland.com reports (http://bit.ly/29c333x ) that U.S. District Judge Dan Polster ordered the evaluation Monday after 23-year-old Terrence McNeil appeared to laugh when the judge told him he could face life in prison if convicted of solicitation of a crime of violence and threatening military personnel.
Authorities say McNeil posted online the names and addresses of more than 100 military personnel and asked people to kill them on behalf of the Islamic State group. He was indicted in December.

Life Sentences Upheld for Brothers Convicted in Terror Plot

CAMDEN, N.J. — Three immigrant brothers sentenced to life in prison for plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix will not have their life sentences overturned.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler said in his ruling made public Tuesday that he didn’t buy the arguments from Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka that they were wrongly convicted in 2008 because their lawyers kept them from testifying.
Kugler ruled Friday that he found testimony from their defense attorneys at a January hearing more credible.

Prison officials’ ordering Muslim prisoner-cook to handle pork may violate the Free Exercise Clause

So the Ninth Circuit held last Friday in Jones v. Williams, though the decision turns in part on the prison’s own admission that the kitchen could function just fine even if such requests for exemption were granted (and of course the rule would apply equally to Jewish religious objectors or to anyone else who feels a religious objection to handling pork):
The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act implements a more demanding standard (see the recent Holt v. Hobbs decision), but it has been read as not authorizing damages remedies; and while it does authorize injunctions, here the behavior was unlikely to be repeated (and thus unlikely to need an injunction) because Jones is no longer in prison.

US Appeals Court Revives SC Solitary Confinement Challenge Based on Religious Rights

In a unanimous ruling Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said evidence shows that Lumumba Incumma has never received any meaningful review of his solitary confinement, despite having no administrative infractions over the last two decades.
Incumma was placed in solitary confinement after he and other members of the Nation of Gods and Earths, an offshoot of the Nation of Islam, staged a prison riot in 1995.
He also claimed that his around-the-clock segregation violated his religious rights, but the appeals court said a judge was correct in rejecting that claim.

Officer criticizes prison’s Terrorism Department

Dutch Public Prosecution Service criticizes the strict manner jihad-suspects are being held in detention. Public prosecutor and coördinator counter-terrorism Bart den Hartigh tells that they are are not in favour of the treatment the inmates receive, but they do not determine the rules. The responsibility lies with the Dutch Custodial Institutions, a department of the Ministry of Security and Justice.

Suspects’ attorneys call the way the suspects are treated a form of paranoia, that instead of preventing terrorism, creates a extremist ideology. Examples of this treatment are: visitation of the private areas, staying 23 hours a day in cell and very restrictive contact with the outside world. But those treatments are not legitimate.

According to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Security and Justice the suspects’ complaints are exaggerated. ‘And it’s not a surprise they present themselves as victims’.