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Jihadis held in jails are released in growing numbers

Although the number of terrorists detained in Belgian prisons is in decline, their numbers are still high, accounting for 1.7 per cent of the country's prison population. The main reason for the decline, however, is that the inmates are being released.

Revisiting a study by Thomas Renard, a researcher at Egmont Institute, Belgian daily La Libre suggests that although the number of radicalised Islamists held in the country's prisons is in decline, Belgian penitentiaries - according to figures published this May - still hold 165 terrorist inmates, a whopping 1,7 per cent of all the country's prisoners.

In early 2018 Belgium had some 250 radicalised prisoners behind bars, but their numbers have dropped by almost 100, primarily because over 370 radical inmates have been released from Belgian prisons since 2012, with an additional 60 to be released by the end of 2021, as Renard's figures show. Another factor is that some 50 per cent of them have been sentenced to less than 10 years, which means that prisoners linked to terrorism are gradually coming out of prison as their sentences expire.

Since the jihadi crisis of 2013-2015, Belgian terrorists have changed strategy and began focusing on what is best described as "dispersal." They can now be found in every Belgian penitentiary, so their numbers per prison does not exceed 6. The only exception is the so-called Deradex Division. These cells were established in 2016 with the aim of separating the most determined jihadi recruiters and preachers from other inmates, and of torturing them until they would give up their extremist views. Hence the name deralex, which is derived from "deradicalisation."

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