From Criminals to Terrorists and Back? Quarterly Report 2018 Spain


The From Criminals to Terrorists and Back? project team presents another in its series of Quarterly Reports, this time focused on Spain. Its authors are Fernando Reinares, Carola García-Calvo and Álvaro Vicente. Fernando Reinares is Director of the Program on Global Terrorism at Elcano Royal Institute and Professor of Political Science and Security Studies at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, both in Madrid. He is also Adjunct Professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Carola García-Calvo is Senior Analyst in the Program on Global Terrorism at Elcano Royal Institute, as well as Associate Lecturer on Terrorism and Security Studies at Universidad Pontificia de Comillas, both in Madrid. Álvaro Vicente is a Research Assistant in the Program on Global Terrorism at Elcano Royal Institute and Associate Lecturer at Rey Juan Carlos University, both in Madrid.

In the case of Spain, a total of 62 individuals were arrested and brought before the judges of the Audiencia Nacional (National Court) for activities related to jihadist terrorism during 2015.  Ten of these (that is, 16.1%) had prior criminal records unrelated to terrorism. For the more limited period covered in this report, that is, the first quarter of 2015, we have analysed 16 cases included in our Elcano Database on Jihadists in Spain (EDBJS).  However, only two of them (12.5%) had prior criminal records. As such, the first quarter of the year is representative of the entire year in terms of the number of jihadist arrests. Over the five-year period, though, between 2013 and 2017, 16.3% of all the 239 individuals arrested had prior criminal records, with the annual percentages showing some variation.

With respect to those arrested in Spain during the first quarter and for all of 2015, 12.5% and 16.1%, respectively, had previous criminal records. Therefore, the hypothesis that both types of criminality—ordinary delinquency and terrorism—draw upon the same social base find little empirical support in the Spanish case, at least during 2015.

Focusing on the two individuals with prior criminal records referenced above, among all those jihadists arrested during in January-March 2015, a crime-terror link is visible in two of the ways already analysed in the context of incarceration, with prisons being the environment for radicalisation and a nexus for capacity and knowledge transfer (for instance, with respect to access to weapons or adoption of security measures).