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French terrorism suspect walks free – twice – due to bureaucratic ‘dysfunction’

A terrorism suspect, allegedly involved in plotting an attack in Lyon, France, in 2014, was mistakenly released from custody after a judge forgot to renew his pre-trial detention, the French government has confirmed.

The French judicial system is under extremely tight scrutiny after a satirical weekly newspaper 'Le Canard Enchaîné' published a piece alleging that a suspected jihadist, Oualid B, was released from prison on April 3 after a judge forgot to renew his custody term.

Furthermore, the suspect was once again arrested in May for driving without a license and outside his probation area. Police also found his mobile phone contained images of armed jihadists and a propaganda film of the Islamic State terrorist group (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Yet following his immediate court appearance in Meaux, Seine-et-Marne, Oualid B. again emerged free.

The head of the judiciary, Nicole Belloubet, has launched an internal probe to “identify the reason for this serious dysfunction,” of the court system, Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Wednesday. “The priority is to find this individual,” he said, noting that the suspect's release could potentially have “serious consequences.”

Although Oualid B remains free, he is allegedly under a “very strict judicial control,” the Ministry of Justice said, noting that the suspect was released under the condition that he will check in twice a day at the police station in Meaux, where he lives.

Initially imprisoned in August 2016, Oualid B is scheduled to appear in court in November over his suspected involvement in a foiled bombing attack in Lyon in 2014, which, the investigation believes, could have targeted the Jewish community. The suspect is also wanted for running a jihadist supply chain to Syria. Oualid B., is to be tried in Paris by the special Assize Court, which deals with terrorist cases, alongside Reda Bekhaled and his two brothers, suspected of being involved in the planned attack in 2014. In all, 15 people are facing trial in this case, eight of whom have already escaped France for Iraq and Syria.

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