More than 100 fa­nat­ics are on anti-ter­ror scheme

Lon­don Bridge at­tack raises doubts over ‘detox­i­fi­ca­tion’

Scottish Daily Mail - - Comment - By Ian Drury and David Bar­rett

CALLS are grow­ing for an ur­gent re­view of a counter-rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion scheme that Us­man Khan was on be­fore he launched the Lon­don Bridge ter­ror at­tack.

Fig­ures ob­tained by the Mail show that at least 110 con­victed and sus­pected ter­ror­ists are sub­ject to the De­sis­tance and Dis­en­gage­ment Pro­gramme.

The num­ber of freed ex­trem­ists en­gaged in the Home Of­fice’s se­cre­tive ‘detox­i­fi­ca­tion’ strat­egy has soared over the past two years and ques­tions were be­ing asked last night over whether the public are be­ing pro­tected. Khan was tak­ing part in the pro­gramme when he slaugh­tered two peo­ple in cold blood at a pris­oner re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion con­fer­ence.

De­vel­oped while Theresa May was home sec­re­tary, it was launched in 2016. Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures re­leased un­der free­dom of in­for­ma­tion rules, four in­di­vid­u­als went on the pro­gramme dur­ing its ini­tial six months in 2016-17. That rose to 64 in 2017-18, then to 110 in 2018-19.

The num­ber is now ex­pected to be even higher as more ter­ror con­victs are freed from jail. Of­fi­cial fig­ures show that 97 were re­leased in the two years to March. Spend­ing has rock­eted from £1mil­lion in the first full year of the pro­gramme to £3.3mil­lion a year now.

Mo­hibur Rah­man, who was jailed along­side Khan in 2012, is also be­lieved to have been on the pro­gramme.

Rah­man was re­leased from his first jail term in 2015 but while serv­ing part of his sen­tence at Bel­marsh high se­cu­rity prison in south-east Lon­don he be­came friends with two men with whom he plot­ted to launch at­tacks against mil­i­tary tar­gets across the

UK. Rah­man is now serv­ing life fol­low­ing his con­vic­tion in 2017.

An­other par­tic­i­pant in the DPP is be­lieved to have been Yahya Rashid, who was jailed for five years in 2015 af­ter try­ing to travel to Syria to join Is­lamic State. He was re­leased half­way through his prison term last year.

The 23-year-old, from north Lon­don, was sent back to jail this week af­ter po­lice dis­cov­ered he had been hid­ing a phone from the au­thor­i­ties – a breach of his li­cence con­di­tions. Tory can­di­date Tim Loughton, who sat on the Com­mons home af­fairs com­mit­tee, said: ‘It is im­por­tant that min­is­ters re­view how ef­fec­tive this re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gramme is and whether it is value for money.

‘Un­til we are ab­so­lutely con­vinced some ter­ror­ists do not pose a threat to the public, we should err on the side of keep­ing peo­ple safe and keep­ing them locked up.’

The scheme is com­pul­sory for any­one re­leased from prison for ter­ror-re­lated of­fences, for those on Ter­ror­ism Pre­ven­tion and In­ves­ti­ga­tion Mea­sures and for re­turn­ing fight­ers and ji­hadi brides who can­not be pros­e­cuted for lack of ev­i­dence.

Dr Paul Stott of the Henry Jack­son So­ci­ety, a se­cu­rity think-tank, said: ‘The mur­der­ous ter­ror­ist act com­mit­ted by Us­man Khan re­quires a root and branch re-ex­am­i­na­tion of our coun­terex­trem­ism pro­grammes.

‘Part of that dis­cus­sion needs to be whether the De­sis­tance and Dis­en­gage­ment Pro­gramme for those on li­cence should be sep­a­rate from the pro­grammes in­di­vid­u­als have started (and pre­sum­ably passed) while in prison.

‘Con­ti­nu­ity and con­sis­tency may sug­gest there is a ben­e­fit to unit­ing the pro­grammes.’

He added: ‘The huge cost cur­rently ex­pended on DPP also makes it im­per­a­tive it is clear that govern­ment in­ter­ven­tions to­wards ex­trem­ists are prop­erly joined up.’

‘Slaugh­tered in cold blood’

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