The killed terrorist in Vienna carried out the attack after being in a de-radicalization program when he served a terrorist sentence in 2019. Norwegian experts believe that such programs have not failed.
It was a 20-year-old Austrian citizen with North Macedonian roots who was behind the terrorist attack in Vienna on Monday night. Four have been confirmed killed and 22 wounded after the attack.
In April 2019, he was sentenced to 22 months in prison for trying to go to Syria to join the terrorist group IS. This was confirmed by Interior Minister Karl Nehammer at a press conference on Tuesday, writes Reuters.
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Only months later, however, he was released due to his young age, according to the interior minister.
At the press conference, it was also revealed that the terrorist has been part of a de-radicalization program after the verdict.
“Despite all the outward signs that he was integrating into society, the attacker apparently did exactly the opposite,” Nehammer said during the press conference.
When asked by Der Standard how he could go under the radar, the Minister of the Interior replied:
– Because he tricked the de-radicalization system so brutally, so passionately, that there were no indications.
The perpetrator served time in a local prison in Austria and was put on trial by a court in a de-radicalization program there, according to Der Standard. The newspaper writes that because the time in custody counts, the perpetrator had served two thirds of the sentence already in December.
– Thought he had learned
VG has spoken with the lawyer Nikolaus Rast, who defended the perpetrator in court in 2018, when he was convicted of attempting to travel to Syria.
– It was a stupid boy’s idea to go there. The impression one was left with after the hearings was that he had learned from his mistakes. I thought he had learned the difference between right and wrong after he got out of jail. Obviously I was wrong, says Rast.
The lawyer says that his job was over when the man was released from prison in December last year.
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– Did he ever express to you that he wanted to carry out something like Monday’s attack?
– No never. We can only imagine what has happened to him since I last spoke to him almost a year ago, he replies.
According to Professor Tore Bjørgo at the Center for Extremism Research at the University of Oslo and the Police Academy, a very low proportion of convicted terrorists commit new terrorist acts after serving their sentences.
Society still has little tolerance for such relapses.
– It becomes a scandal when a released terrorist convict returns to terrorist activity. It is politically unacceptable that perhaps five out of a hundred convicted terrorists resume their terrorist activities, Bjørgo tells VG.
– Can not call the programs a failure
According to Bjørgo, research in this field says that “there are only between three and eight percent of convicts terrorists » who have committed acts of terrorism after their release.
In comparison, says Bjørgo, it is “between 25 to 60 percent who end up back in the criminal justice system” of common convicted.
For convicted terrorists, these figures mean that well over 90 percent do not return to terrorist activities, according to the researcher.
– I know of a couple of serious cases in England where released terror convicts, who have been through de-radicalization programs, have nevertheless committed new serious terror afterwards. At the same time, there are very many who have been through the same programs, who have not committed such terrorist crimes afterwards.
– One can thus not say that such de-radicalization programs are a failure, even if there are some failed cases, with tragic outcomes.
Believes the programs need to be customized
Bjørgo is supported by associate professor David Hansen at the Norwegian Prison and Probation Service’s college and education center, with a doctorate in, among other things, political Islam, radicalism and violent extremism.
In an e-mail to VG, he writes that he agrees with Bjørgo that one can not call the programs unsuccessful, but adds:
– One can wonder if the result would have been the same anyway – such programs must, if they are to be effective, have tailoring and be adapted to the individual.
According to Hansen, some of the content of the programs may arouse opposition among some of the inmates. This content can, for example, be “religious messages that the inmates do not agree with”, he writes and adds:
– But which they apparently choose to accept because it is negative for the course of imprisonment to “drop out” of such programs.
According to Hansen, it may also be that in other cases the real challenges have not been “addressed”.
– The prisoner may also have shown good progression and been labeled as de-radicalized along the way – and then fall back into old patterns, or carry out other types of crime after imprisonment, Hansen writes.
Was not under surveillance
According to Nehammer, there are many indications that the terrorist was still close to the terrorist group IS. Prior to the attack, he is said to have posted a photo of himself on Instagram where he posed with a weapon.
During the attack, he is said to have been armed with an automatic rifle, a handgun and a machete.
After his release in December last year, he was no longer under surveillance by the Austrian security service, according to Der Standard.
Interior Minister Nehammer spoke during the press conference about a “fault line” among those responsible – the police, the prosecution and the courts – which led to the perpetrator being discharged from the de-radicalization program and released early from prison.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Minister of Justice in the country defended the early release by saying that it is common for convicts to be released after serving two thirds of the sentence.
A total of 16 people have so far been arrested in connection with the terrorist attack.
Published: 03.11.20 kl. 21:06
Updated: 03.11.20 at 21:22
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