Rehabilitation or Radicalization: Would More Time in Prison Have Stopped The London Bridge Terrorist?

Published December 1st, 2019 - 11:03 GMT
Usman Khan is believed to be 15 at the time
Usman Khan is believed to be 15 at the time

Following the tragic terrorist attack that took place on London Bridge, a video resurfaced of the 28-year-old terrorist Usman Khan, dating back to 2008 in which he claims “I’m not a terrorist."

The video, which has gone viral on social media, sparked a heated debate on whether detaining convicted criminals rehabilitates or radicalizes them, with many suggesting that the tragic terrorist attacked could have been prevented if Khan's sentence had not been cut short.

The 2008 clip shows the killer, believed to be 15 at the time, saying in an interview: "I've been born and bred in England, in Stoke-On-Trent, in Cobridge, and all the community knows me and they will know, if you ask them, they will know like these labels what they're putting on us, like terrorist, this, that, they will know I ain't no terrorist."

Khan had been part of a group plotting to bomb targets like the US Embassy and kill high profile figures like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He was jailed for a minimum of eight years having been convicted of a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange.

This was overturned by the Court of Appeal in April 2013, when the indeterminate sentence was quashed. Instead, he was handed 16 years in jail with an extended licence period of five years, but he was later released early in December 2018 and was wearing a monitoring tag at the time of the attack.

Khan's early release has become a topic of scrutiny.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was important to enforce appropriate prison sentences for criminals.

"I have long argued that it is a mistake to allow serious and violent criminal to come out of prison early, and it is very important that we get out of that habit, and that we enforce the appropriate sentences for dangerous criminals, especially terrorists," he said. 

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party in the UK, came under fire for suggesting that it's not always necessary for terrorists to complete their sentences.

A man who went to school with Khan slammed the authorities for letting him out of prison to finally carry out the terror attacks he'd previously been jailed for planning to carry out.

Following the incident the man said: “I couldn't believe it when I saw the man who had been arrested was Usman. We all heard that he'd been arrested and jailed for terror plots years ago, I don't understand why he was allowed to be walking the streets.”

One of the London Bridge victims was 25-year-old Jack Merritt, who was a course coordinator for a prisoner rehabilitation program. His father, David, later stated that he would not want his son's death to be used to justify more draconian prison sentences.

On social media many echoed his message that further imprisonment might not be the best way to combat terror threats, although others strongly disagreed. 

The debate quickly became politicized after Johnson and other politicians began making statements.

Online, many pointed fingers are the various political parties, accusing them of failure to prevent the attack. 

But others tried to keep the limelight away from politics and focus on more practical solutions to prevent future terror incidents.

Security minister Brandon Lewis refused to say whether the attack showed a failure by the authorities, and repeatedly refused to comment on the specifics of the incident, but said that more assessment was needed of the sentences given to violent criminals.

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