A maximum-security prison in London has become “like a jihadi training camp”, according to shocking testimony from a former inmate.
The whistleblower said that a terrifying group of jihadists at Belmarsh, who call themselves “the Brothers”, or “the Akhi” (Arabic for brother), appear to “almost have the run of the prison”.
Our witness, a Muslim university graduate who has recently been released from a sentence for bank fraud, said that “governors, prison officers and imams all know about this”.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening Standard, he said that Belmarsh, where many convicted terrorists and terror-related offenders mix freely with ordinary prisoners, was “the worst”.
He added: “But the problem is that Belmarsh is also a holding prison and so young people who are brainwashed and indoctrinated then go out into the wider prison system and create wider Akhi networks.”
The revelations came in the wake of yesterday’s damning Justice Select Committee report that revealed a huge increase in suicides, violent assaults and disorder across the prison network.
They also came ahead of tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech, when the Government is expected to unveil new measures to crack down on extremism as well as wider reforms of the prison system.
The number of prisoners in Belmarsh held for terrorism or terror-related offences was 51 in 2006. Today’s figure is estimated to be at least 80, although the Ministry of Justice refused to confirm this, saying: “We do not know the exact number.”
The Ministry of Justice also declined to elaborate on their policy of allowing prisoners held on terror-related offences to mix freely with other inmates, and whether this would be reviewed.
Latest figures show that in the five years to December 31, 2014, the number of Muslim inmates at Belmarsh has more than doubled to 265, or 30 per cent of the total prisoners.
This trend is London-wide. At HMP Isis in Thamesmead and Feltham Young Offenders’ Institute, Muslims now comprise 42 and 34 per cent of prisoners respectively, despite Muslims amounting to just 12 per cent of London’s population.
A Ministry of Justice Prison Service spokesman said: “There is no evidence to back up these specific claims about HMP Belmarsh — where our hard-working staff successfully manage a very challenging group of prisoners.
“But we are not remotely complacent about the risks that Islamist extremism poses in prisons. That is why the Secretary of State commissioned a review of how the prison system deals with this issue.”