Source: Reuters – Wed, 5 Jun 2013 07:18 PM
BRUSSELS, June 5 (Reuters) – European countries should make it a criminal offence to fight in foreign rebellions or receive jihadist training overseas, the EU’s counter-terrorism chief said on Wednesday.
Most foreign fighters in the Syrian war are from other Middle Eastern countries, but European citizens have also gone to take up arms in the conflict.
Fears have been expressed that EU citizens who fight with Syrian rebels could return to Europe as radicalised Islamists with combat training.
“We have to make sure that the 27 member states have in their criminal book a specific offence of going abroad for jihad, for training purposes or to fight, so we are working on it,” the EU’s Gilles de Kerchove told reporters.
A study by Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Flashpoint Global Partners stated that the “lion’s share” of foreign fighters who died in Syria did so while fighting with the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
France has draft legislation which would seek to criminalise committing acts of terrorism overseas or going abroad to receive training to commit jihad.
A United Nations decision last Friday to sanction Nusra Front as an alias of al Qaeda in Iraq means that French authorities are also already able to prosecute citizens who return from Syria if they fought for the group.
De Kerchove said another way to lower the number of people travelling to fight in Syria would be for EU governments to target radicalised Islamists in Europe. He said countries could expel radical preachers, freeze their assets or withdraw social benefits. (Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; editing by Andrew Roche)
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