ProPublica looks into what it calls “a worrisome reality at a time of unprecedented radicalization among youth in Europe”: European law enforcement is good at catching terrorists, but not so good at keeping them locked up. “Penal policies have not adapted to the reality of the terrorist threat,” said Louis Caprioli, a former counterterrorism chief of France's domestic spy agency.
A deep-rooted judicial philosophy in Europe emphasizes rehabilitation over long punishment. Prison terms for terrorists often are not much different from those given common criminals, even if they are repeat offenders. In a major trial that ended in February, a Belgian court convicted 45 members of Sharia4Belgium, an extremist group that sent dozens of fighters to Syria. Their sentences ranged from three to 15 years, and some were suspended. Fouad Belkacem, the group's charismatic chief based in Antwerp, got 12 years, even though he had previously been convicted of drug trafficking and incitement of hatred.