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26th Jan 2020

Paris attacker tops EU ‘most wanted’ list

  • Soldiers still patrol the streets of Brussels, EU capital, months after the Paris murders (Photo: Miguel Discart)

The face of Salah Abdeslam, the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks, topped a new EU “most wanted” list, published on Friday (29 January).

The list, put out by Europol, the EU’s joint police body in The Hague, also featured Mohamed Abrini, his driver, describing him as “very dangerous and armed … Anyone who sees this man, is asked not to take any initiative but immediately inform the police.”

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The site features 45 fugitives from the 17 member states taking part.

Most of them are wanted for murder, armed robbery, rape, or for being part of organised crime syndicates.

Zakaira Benaissa, the third most wanted on the list, for instance, is a Belgian serial killer. He’s on the run for three years for the so-called Manga murders, by reference to notes he left with victims citing Japanese cartoons.

The list is a call for the general public to send information.

Tens of thousands of people clicked on it on Friday. But the heavy traffic caused it to crash shortly after breakfast time and it was unavailable for most of the day.

If someone sees Abdeslam and files an online alert, it’s pinged to their home country’s Fast unit, or Fugitive Active Search Teams unit, which is meant to share it with other Fast units in EU capitals.

Europol itself just hosts the website.

The 17 EU participating states name the “most wanted” targets and follow up bilaterally or multilaterally.

Tine Hollevoet, a Europol spokeswoman, told EUobserver The Hague only knows something has happened if “someone is arrested and taken down from the site”.

She said the list is supposed to fill information gaps in EU public awareness.

“All of them [the EU’s most wanted] have already appeared in the media on a national level, but not on an international level. For example, an Italian target could be hiding in Sweden or elsewhere. Criminals have no boundaries, so we believe that if we all look for them together, we’ll have a bigger chance of arresting them.”

Not referring directly to Abdeslam, she added: “For all the targets that are on the list, there is … a strong reason to suspect that these suspects are somewhere hiding in another EU country.”

Interpol

The initiative mirrors Interpol’s wanted persons list.

But Interpol member states aren’t obliged to extradite suspects to each other, even if Interpol, which is based in Lyon, France, issues a 'red notice'.

The EU targets are subject to a European arrest warrant, which obliges all 28 member states to hand over fugitives.

Interpol has come under fire for listing the wrong people, because some 'rogue' member states abuse it to hunt political opponents.

The EU doesn’t have that problem. But not all its judiciaries are equal either.

Yoga guru

One of the men on the EU list on Friday morning was Gregorian Bivolaru.

The Romanian yoga guru was sentenced in his native country on charges including rape and tax fraud. But Sweden gave him asylum on grounds he couldn’t get a fair tiail and risked religious persecution.

Sweden made him a refugee in 2006. Romania joined the EU in 2007 and sentenced him, in absentia, in 2013.

The EU project poses the question of what a Swedish Fast unit would do if an alert on Bivolaru, now 63, comes in.

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