Denmark criticised over denial of deradicalisation programme to persons awaiting deportation

Denmark is wasting an opportunity to reduce the risk of terrorism by denying deradicalisation programmes to foreign persons awaiting deportation from the country, according to an expert.

Denmark criticised over denial of deradicalisation programme to persons awaiting deportation
Unlike Sweden and Norway, Denmark does not offer deradicalisation programmes to persons awaiting deprotation for terror offences. Photo: Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix

In an interview with newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Norwegian professor Tore Bjørgo, a terrorism researcher at the University of Oslo, criticised the Danish practice, effective in accordance with a 2017 law change.

Under the Danish law, persons sentenced to deportation because of terror convictions are denied access to exit or resocialisation programmes for persons who have been radicalised.

That sets Denmark aside from Nordic neighbours Sweden and Norway, which both allow such individuals to access their national programmes for leaving extremist movements.

A total of 21 people with terrorism convictions entered Denmark’s deradicalisation programmes between 2007 and 2020, with 9 completing them, according to the Danish prison service Kriminalforsorgen.

Those numbers are evidence that people who enter such programmes are willing to put thoughts of terror behind them, according to Linda Kjær Minke, professor with special responsibilities in criminology at the University of Southern Denmark.

“Without deradicalisation, prison can lead to bitterness, and political convictions are not changed behind bars,” Minke said to news wire Ritzau.

“It’s a narrow approach to look at whether or not a person has been deported and that’s concerning,” she added.

Kristian Hegaard, justice spokesperson with the centre-left Social Liberal party, called the decision not to attempt to deradicalise persons awaiting deportation “nonsense”.

“We must do everything we can to make sure they don’t commit terror again or radicalise others,” Hegaard told Ritzau.

Not doing so constitutes a risk to Denmark as individuals sentenced to deportation remain in Denmark in some instances, including when they cannot be deported by force in the absence of an agreement with their source country.

“I can’t understand how this can be in Denmark’s interest in any way,” Hegaard said.

“This is not about doing something special for people with terror convictions. It’s about doing something for Denmark,” he added.

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Denmark strips dual national of citizenship after terror conviction

A court in Denmark jailed a dual Danish-Turkish national for 10 years on Tuesday and stripped him of his citizenship for "planning a terrorist attack".

Denmark strips dual national of citizenship after terror conviction
The court at Frederiksberg ruled a 24-year-old man must be stripped of his Danish citizenship following a conviction on terrorism charges. Photo: Ólafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

The 24-year-old — who was not named by the court — will serve his prison sentence in Denmark, but will then be deported to Turkey upon release, the court in Frederiksberg said in a statement.

The man, a native of Copenhagen, had been under surveillance by the intelligence services and was arrested in April 2020 immediately after purchasing a gun and ammunition. 

The police had found a flag of the Islamic State group in his home. 

Prosecutors had demanded a jail term of 12 years and had charged him with purchasing weapons and ammunition “with the intent of perpetrating one or more terrorist attacks”.

The potential targets were not revealed.

After the man is deported, he will be banned for life from entering Danish territory. 

“I think he’s been in Turkey fewer times than many other Danish people,” his lawyer, Rolf Gregersen, told the court.

“Denmark must take responsibility for him once he was awarded Danish citizenship. They can’t just stick a postage stamp on his back and send him on his way,” the lawyer was quoted by the Danish news agency Ritzau as saying. 

The Danish intelligence services, which have foiled a number of attacks in recent years, categorise the risk of an attack against Denmark as “serious”, six years after an Islamist-motivated double attack in Copenhagen left two people dead.