European terror investigations rise by 14 per cent

Crime agency Eurojust has helped capture an Isis extremist and tackled terror propaganda

Members of Isis including military leader and Georgian native, Abu Omar Al Shishani, centre, speaking at an unknown location between the Iraqi Nineveh province and the Syrian town of Al Hasakah. AFP
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The number of EU terror investigations has risen by 14 per cent.

It comes as the bloc's crime agency has exposed thousands of cases of Isis propaganda.

Crime agency Eurojust has revealed it dealt with 222 terror cases last year compared with 191 in 2018.

In its annual report, the agency says its number of new cases has risen to almost 100 and it is continuing work on a further 128 from previous years.

In one case its work with security services in Belgium and Hungary resulted in the apprehension of an Isis extremist who was charged with multiple murders.

It has also worked with 12 member states to disrupt the spread of online terror propaganda.

It led to the arrest in Spain of an extremist suspected of being one of the "core disseminators" of Isis terrorist propaganda online in November.

"The growing complexity for judicial authorities dealing with terrorism is reflected in a steady number of new terrorist cases coordinated through Eurojust’s National Members and Liaison Prosecutors in recent years, rising from 84 to 94 new cases in 2019." the report said.

"In 2019, ongoing investigations coordinated through Eurojust focused on achieving justice for the victims of terrorist acts, cracking down on extremist propaganda or following up on individuals suspected of preparing or attempting to commit a terrorist crime, being members of a terrorist group or financing terrorism."

Ladislav Hamran, President of Eurojust, has praised the agency's work but said it is now focusing on ensuring criminals do not take advantage of the coronavirus.

"This annual report is a vivid testimony to what prosecutors from across the EU and beyond can achieve when they join forces in the fight against organised crime and terrorism," he said.

"I am incredibly proud of the impressive results that the member states and Eurojust jointly accomplished in the past year. At the same time, I am aware that this report will reach you in extraordinary times.

"Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have adapted quickly to make sure criminals do not take advantage of this global health crisis by escaping justice."

Last year Eurojust created the Judicial Counter-Terrorism Register to share information about terrorists.

The agency also been pivotal in bringing experts together to discuss how to deal with foreign terrorist fighters returning to Europe.

It has also worked on almost 8,000 crime cases, an increase of 17 per cent compared with 2018, and has frozen £1.7 billion in criminal assets, apprehended drugs worth £2.4 billion and arrested almost 2,700 people.

Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, said the rise in casework reflects the effective support Eurojust provides.

"The concrete results and the steady growth in Eurojust's casework in 2019 clearly show that the Agency provides the right type of practical, tailor-made support to judicial authorities across the EU, so that they can work together effectively to tackle many forms of serious cross-border crime," he said.

"Eurojust has also quickly adapted its support to respond to judicial cooperation needs in the light of the current coronavirus pandemic, which further underlines the unwavering commitment of the agency to make sure that criminals cannot hide behind national borders."