Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Radical Muslims 'exploit jail staff to convert prisoners'

Extremist Muslim inmates are radicalising other prisoners at London's Belmarsh jail by exploiting staff inexperience, a government watchdog warned today.

In a report, Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers said that some terror detainees "committed to a radical interpretation of Islam" are trying to pressure other prisoners to convert.

But she warned prison officers at the high-security jail were "insufficiently trained and supported" to combat the threat properly.

The findings will fuel concerns about the danger of radicalisation inside prisons as a growing number of terrorists are convicted and jailed.

In today's report, Ms Owers said Belmarsh, which holds nearly 200 Muslim prisoners, including Abu Hamza, Abu Qatada and other high-profile terror convicts, has improved in recent years but faces an "acute" challenge in combating radicalisation.

Among the difficulties she cited were concerns that extremists inside the jail will influence other "disaffected" inmates.

At the same time, she said there was a separate risk that insensitive actions by prison officers trying to counter the threat of radicalisation would have the "perverse effect" of alienating other Muslims.

"Belmarsh held a number of Muslim prisoners on terrorism charges but staff were insufficiently trained and supported to perform the delicate task of countering the risk of radicalisation without alienating Muslims in general," Ms Owers stated.

"Any intervention by staff risked being interpreted, by disaffected Muslims, as deliberately provocative."

"However, the converse was also true: that any conversion to Islam, or any gathering of Muslim prisoners to pray or associate, could be interpreted wrongly by staff as threatening and evidence of radicalisation, with the perverse effect of alienating the great majority of practising Muslims."

Ms Owers said that Muslims expressed more negative views about life inside Belmarsh than other prisoners, with two thirds claiming to be unsafe and a similar proportion claiming to have been victimised by staff.


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Radical Muslims 'exploit jail staff to convert prisoners'

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