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Spain Targets Jihadis Organizing In Spanish Prisons

It's not only in America's jail system that muslim prisoners are proving to be a dangerous menace and radicalizing each other in jail. Spain, too, is experiencing this. Unlike us, they're doing something about the situation.

The discovery of a new cell of Islamic militants who met in prison and planned to assassinate the judges investigating them has exposed Spain's crowded penal system as a breeding ground for terrorists, officials say.

Alarmed that prisons have become a center for hatching plots, the government last week ordered hundreds of inmates to be transferred or isolated as part of a range of measures aimed at separating suspected and convicted Muslim extremists and preventing them from recruiting new allies, authorities said.

Mercedes Gallizo, general director of the country's penal system, said wardens and guards would be instructed to monitor foreign-born prisoners more closely.

The crackdown comes after a government investigative committee announced that the leader of the recently discovered cell had met and recruited his associates during two stints in a Salamanca prison from June 2000 to June 2002.

The suspect, Mohammed Achraf, an Algerian, is currently in jail in Switzerland but was named last month by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon as the ringleader of a plot to blow up Madrid's National Court building with a truck carrying more than 1,000 pounds of explosives. Spain is seeking his extradition.

Garzon filed terrorism charges against 17 other suspects — one Spaniard and 16 Moroccans and Algerians — in connection with the alleged plot. Several had spent time in the Salamanca prison, mostly for common crimes such as theft.

There are approximately 7,000 Muslims — the vast majority of them immigrants — in Spain's 77 jails and prisons, roughly 12% of the penal population. Only 73 are terrorism-related incarcerations.

"We observed a radical change in Muslim prisoners after Sept. 11," 2001, said Juan Figueroa, vice president of the prison employees union.

"After Sept. 11, the inmates radicalized," Figueroa said. "Groups of hard-core Muslims began to form, and they pressured other Muslims."

Since 1999, Figueroa said, six out of 10 new prisoners processed into the penal system have been foreigners.
Later in the LA Times piece,
Figueroa, whose organization has been warning officials of the growing problem of radicalization in the prisons, described what he called the paramilitary structure of hard-core groups.

Typically, he said, a Muslim clique would look to an imam or spiritual leader among them, whose authority is enforced by one or two "colonels," who oblige all Muslims in the cellblock to comply with Islamic rules.

The majority of Muslim inmates, he said, are poor and illiterate. Most are incarcerated for common crimes.

"It's an easy breeding ground," he said.

The new measures ordered in the prisons raise civil rights concerns, since inmates could be separated, isolated or punished on the basis of suspicion rather than concrete wrongdoing.

Posted by evariste on Nov 04, 2004 7:15 am

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