Prosecute Dutch jihadists still in Syria, Iraq: Public Prosecutor

Jihadist training camp.

The Dutch Public Prosecutor wants to prosecute jihadists before their return to the Netherlands, while they are still in Syria and Iraq, national coordinating prosecutor Ferry van Veghel said in Nieuwsuur. "Given the high risk of people who come back from this area, we do not want to wait until they come back before opening criminal investigations. We want it all to start now and continue in their absence", he said.

The first hearing against 12 jihadists fighting in the Syrian Civil War is happening in the Netherlands in March. The Prosecutor aims to get as many Dutch ISIS terrorists brought to justice in the Netherlands as possible.

On Wednesday intelligence service AIVD released a report stating that a total of 280 Dutch went to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist organization Islamic State. 190 of them are believed to still be in the conflict are. "We find it possible to build criminal cases against these 190 fighters. We know that they are in the conflict area. Often there are  also reports of parents and relatives and evidence can be taken from Facebook accounts", Van Veghel said to Nieuwsuur. 

The Prosecutor is also investigating and prosecuting Dutch jihadists that were reported killed in action. According to ISIS, 40 Dutch jihadists were killed in the conflict zone. But that is very hard to confirm. "There are examples of people who were reported dead, but were on their way to Europe. Only if we are absolutely sure that someone is dead, will we stop the case. That's happened in one cse. The other 39 suspected dead cases all continue."

In its report the AIVD stated that the current group of returning jihadists pose an even greater threat to the Netherlands than their previously returned counterparts. "They were longer in the conflict area, received weapons training, gained battle experience and built up their jihadist network. For each returnee it must be determined separately how big the threat is that he or she poses, what is needed to face this threat", the AIVD said. 

The service also specifically warned about the threat posed by military trained children growing up in the conflict area, even from boys as young as 9 years old. There are at least 80 Dutch kids in ISIS controlled areas. About half of them were born there, the rest were taken there by one or both parents. "Less than 20 percent of these children are nine years or older. Because children in ISIS areas are sometimes given weapon and combat training as early as age nine, the AIVD counts them as foreign rebel fighters from that age. Minors who went to the battlefield independently are also seen as foreign rebel fighters."

The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, wants to debate this danger posed by returning jihadists with the government next week, ANP reports. PVV leader Geert Wilders insisted on the debate. Ministers Ronald Plasterk of Home Affairs and Stef Blok of Security and Justice agreed. The Tweede Kamer meets for the last time next week. 

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