French extremist gets 28 years for prison attack

Bilal Taghi was serving a five-year sentence for attempting to travel to Syria when he stabbed two prison guards

This court sketch made on November 19, 2019 shows Bilal Taghi, a radicalised member of IS, on trial at the criminal court in Paris after he attacked two prison guards at the Osny prison facility in 2016. / AFP / Benoit PEYRUCQ
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A Paris court has sentenced a jailed ISIS foreign fighter to 28 years imprisonment for the attempted murder of two prison wardens in September 2016, the first extremist attack in a French prison.

Bilal Taghi was serving a five-year sentence for attempting to travel to Syria for jihad when he stabbed two prison guards at Osny prison northwest of Paris using the hinge of his cell window, which he had sharpened.

He also etched the symbol of ISIS on a metal door and drew a heart on a window with the blood of his victims.

After the attack the 27-year-old said he had wanted to kill a representative of the French state on behalf of ISIS and would do so again if given the chance.

He boasted about hoodwinking his jailors into believing he was someone "who could be reintegrated into society" by "being chatty".

During his trial however he appeared contrite, apologising for his actions and vowing that he had renounced extremism.

The prosecution dismissed his expressions of regret, describing him as a compulsive liar who was "irrevocably committed to radical ideology".

His attack, which took place in a prison wing dedicated to combatting extremism, led to a review of the way in which radicalised prisoners are managed.

Osny prison was one of four in France that had been chosen to trial dedicated counter-extremism wings after a string attacks by perpetrators had become radicalised in prison.

The inmates in the anti-radicalisation wings were held separately from other prisoners.

"You bring together people who think the same way and tell them to all change. It doesn't work," Taghi had told the court.

He was also very critical of some of the activities offered to radicalised prisoners, such as yoga and painting, seeing them as "childish".

After his attack, the authorities put in place a new programme whereby convicted jihadists and prisoners suspected of having becoming radicalised undergo four months of screening.

Those who still harbour radical thoughts are placed in anti-radicalisation programmes while those considered very dangerous are placed in isolation units.