Skip to comments.Terrorist is released early under scheme to ease prison overcrowding crisis
Posted on 03/30/2008 6:38:07 PM PDT by forkinsocket
Jack Straw yesterday closed a loophole in prison release rules that saw two terrorists freed early to ease overcrowding.
Yassin Nassari, who was caught with plans for a military rocket, was last month given his liberty 17 days early, officials admitted.
Another terrorist, who is understood to be teenager Abdul Patel, benefited from the early release scheme in January.
Within hours of the two cases coming to light yesterday, Mr Straw issued a hurried announcement saying terrorists would no longer be freed early.
The Justice Secretary's critics said the U-turn was a sign of disarray in Whitehall. They demanded to know when Mr Straw knew that terrorists were benefiting from early release rules.
Officials said it was too late to send the two men back to prison because their sentences had now expired.
The End of Custody Licence scheme has seen intense criticism since it was introduced last summer in response to the jail overcrowding crisis.
Criminals can be freed up to 18 days early if they were sentenced to less than four years and their crime did not involve serious violence.
Some 18,000 inmates have had their sentences cut and have together committed 400 crimes since their release.
Mr Straw was heavily criticised by opposition MPs after Nassari's release became public and within two hours issued a statement saying: "In the light of this case I have taken action to tackle this issue.
"No more prisoners convicted under terrorism legislation will be released through the End of Custody Licence scheme."
Nassari, 28, served only seven months of a three-and-a-half year sentence for possessing documents useful to terrorists.
The businessman and teacher from Ealing in West London, had already spent more than a year on remand.
He was arrested at Luton Airport in May 2006 with his Dutch wife, Bouchra El Hor, on their return from trips to Holland and Syria with their five-month-old baby.
Nassari's laptop held documents on martyrdom and weapons training and instructions on how to construct the Qassam artillery rocket - a home-made steel device used by terrorist groups in the Middle East.
At his home police found videos of terrorist attacks and beheadings. He denied knowledge of the material but was convicted at the Old Bailey of possessing documents likely to be useful to a terrorist.
He was acquitted of the more serious-offence of possessing articles for terrorist purposes.
His 24-year-old wife was cleared of failing to disclose information about terrorism to the police.
The Ministry of Justice initially stressed that Nassari qualified for early release only because his crime was relatively minor.
They said police and probation staff were monitoring him and he had not reoffended since his release.
But Mr Straw quickly accepted that the situation was unsustainable and ordered prison and parole officials to change the rules.
Nassari had been held as a Category A prisoner - the highest security bracket.
Patel, from Hackney in East London, was just 17 when he was found in possession of an American bomb building-manual, instructions on how to make sarin nerve gas and videos of executions.
David Davis, Tory home affairs spokesman, said: "The Government's perverse approach to security defies common sense.
"On the one hand, they are trying to pass a new law extending the period for holding innocent people - convicted of nothing - when we already have the longest period of pre-charge detention in the free world.
"On the other hand, they are releasing a terrorist we have managed to bring to justice, a dangerous man convicted in our courts for researching how to deploy military weapons in this country.
"Jack Straw must now answer when he first knew about this."
Helluva way to fight a war, ay.
17 days early is bad...7 months is worse...but 3 1/2 years to begin with for that crime was stupid and ridiculous...
Thank you for the ping, RDTF.
One more reason, John McCain, that you cannot close gitmo and rely on the civilian court system (US or UK) to deal with foreign fighters.