Sunday, April 13, 2008

Inside Belmarsh

Down the Thames near Woolwich, rarely visited by most people and not really known about by the majority of British citizens, is a state-of-the-art jail and court complex called Belmarsh. I got to know it in the nineties where I attended the court hearings of one or two IRA men, but these days the terrorists held there are the alleged 'players' in various radical Islamist plots; some convicted, others on long stretches of remand time waiting for trial.

What goes on inside there is in some ways pretty vital to the security of the UK. When the IRA and loyalist groups were incarcerated in the H blocks in the Maze prison near Belfast the terrorists ran the jail rather than the authorities, and the place was a mix of veterans home and idealogical training unit. It would be very bad news indeed if the same thing happened in Belmarsh.

This morning in the Sunday Times Rachel interviews a man who spent time there while infact being innocent of offences, but whose brother was a key figure at the infamous Finsbury Park mosque where so much radicalisation took place. What's clear from her article is that the game has changed since the early part of this decade, that there's now a growing counterweight to radicalisation among young British Muslim men, and infact there are many grounds for optimism in the current situation. If there was a 7/7 again 'perhaps thirty percent' of those held in Belmarsh might celebrate, which is a world away from the solid nature of the Maze. It's a well written unsensationalist piece of reporting, and it is on the net here.

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