Court Sentences French Woman To Life Imprisonment For IS Membership

 France, IS, Priest

An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced a French woman to life in jail for membership of the Islamic State group as her lawyers accused authorities in Paris of putting pressure on Baghdad to prevent the return of jihadists to France.

Melina Boughedir, a mother of four, was sentenced last February to seven months in prison for “illegal” entry into the country and was set to be deported back to France.

But another court ordered the re-trial of the 27-year-old French citizen under Iraq’s anti-terrorism law and on Sunday she was found guilty of belonging to IS.

“I am innocent,” Boughedir told the judge in French.

“My husband dumped me and then threatened to leave with the children” unless she followed him to Iraq, where he planned on joining IS, she said.

“I am opposed to the ideology of the Islamic group and condemn the actions of my husband,” she added.

Boughedir, who wore a black dress and a black headscarf, arrived in the courtroom carrying her youngest daughter in her arms. Her three other children are now back in France.

Her sentence is the latest doled out to foreigners who flocked to join IS in its self-declared caliphate after the jihadist group seized the northern third of Iraq and swathes of Syria in 2014.

On May 22, an Iraqi court sentenced Belgian jihadist Tarik Jadaoun, also known as Abu Hamza al-Beljiki, to death by hanging — although he pleaded not guilty to a range of terror charges.

Jadaoun had earned the moniker “the new Abaaoud”, after his compatriot Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of the organisers of November 2015 attacks in Paris.

‘Unacceptable interference’

Even before she was sentenced, Boughedir’s case sparked anger from her defence team, who had accused French authorities of interfering in the case.

On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French news channel LCI that Boughedir was a “Daesh (IS) terrorist who fought against Iraq” and said she should be tried on Iraqi soil.

That prompted her French lawyers to send a letter of protest to Le Drian, seen by AFP, in which they denounced “pressure on the Iraqi judicial system” and “unacceptable interference”.

On Saturday, one of her lawyers, William Bourdon, told AFP that Boughedir’s family and her defence team want her to return to France and face a court there.

“There is an unprecedented antagonism between the French political establishment and justice,” said Bourdon, who had travelled to Baghdad with two other French lawyers to join forces with Boughedir’s Iraqi defence attorney.

Arrested in the summer of 2017 in Mosul, the former capital of IS’s proto-state, Boughedir was sentenced in February to seven months in prison for “illegal” entry into the country and was set to be deported back to France.

But upon re-examining her file, an Iraqi court found that Boughedir knew her husband was planning on joining IS in Iraq and that she “knowingly” followed him.

During Sunday’s hearing which lasted about one hour, the judge asked Boughedir to explain why and under what circumstances she entered Syria and then Iraq.

He then declared that “the proof that has been gathered is enough to condemn the criminal to life in jail”.

Boughedir’s husband is believed to have been killed during a vast operation by US-led coalition-backed Iraqi forces to seize Mosul, Iraq’s second city, back from jihadist control.

On Sunday she told the court that the man she had been married to for five years had disappeared one day, walking out and saying he was going out “to look for water”.

Since then, she said, she had received no information about his fate or his whereabouts.

Boughedir is the second French citizen sentenced to life in prison by an Iraqi court for belonging to IS, after Djamila Boutoutaou, 29, in April.

Boutoutaou also said she had been tricked by her husband.

Thousands of foreign fighters from across the world flocked to the black banner of the jihadists after the group seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Multiple offensives have since reduced their “caliphate” to a sliver of desert territory in the east of war-torn Syria.

Dozens of French citizens suspected of having joined IS ranks are believed to be in detention in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, including several minors.


Iraq Court Sentences Belgian Jihadist To Death For IS Membership



An Iraqi court on Tuesday sentenced a Belgian jihadist, who threatened Europe in propaganda videos, to death by hanging for membership of the Islamic State group.

The tough punishment is the latest doled out in the conflict-scarred country to foreigners who flocked to the self-declared caliphate of IS.

Tarik Jadaoun — known by his nom de guerre Abu Hamza al-Beljiki — earlier pleaded not guilty to a range of terror charges, insisting he had “got lost” and pleading for mercy.

Born in 1988, Jadaoun — who was captured in ex-IS bastion Mosul in August — appeared before the Baghdad court dressed in a beige prison uniform with a shaved head and bushy moustache.

The hearing lasted for less than 10 minutes, with a judge sentencing him to be “hanged until death”.

Jadaoun — who refused to defend himself after the charges were read out — was immediately taken out of court with his face covered by guards and loaded into a prison van.

He now has 30 days to appeal the verdict during which time the sentence should not be carried out.

In addition, he was sentenced to three years in prison and handed a fine worth $2,300 (2,000 euros) for illegally crossing the Iraqi border.

In a statement released after the sentencing, the Iraqi judiciary described Jadaoun as “among the most wanted foreign terrorists who fought in Syria and Iraq”.

Jadaoun, who has Moroccan roots, said during a first hearing on May 10 that he was forced by “one of the top IS commanders” to appear in videos threatening attacks against Belgium and France.

The footage saw Jadaoun earn the moniker “the new Abaaoud”, after his compatriot Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of the organisers of November 2015 attacks in Paris.

‘Nurse’ claims

He claimed that he had not been a fighter for IS but was instead in charge of a group of nurses.

“I took care of everybody,” he told the earlier hearing.

Investigators had previously alleged that Jadaoun was in charge of the “cubs of the caliphate” — about 60 children aged eight to 13 who received intensive fitness and weapons training. There was no mention of these allegations at his trial.

In total, Iraqi courts have sentenced to death more than 300 people, including dozens of foreigners, for belonging to IS, judicial sources said last month.

Since January, some 100 foreign nationals have been sentenced to death in Baghdad and around 185 to life in prison, officials said.

Iraq has previously executed dual nationals accused of belonging to groups including Al-Qaeda, but is yet to put to death any Westerners sentenced over IS links.

Thousands of foreign fighters from across the world flocked to the black banner of the jihadists as the group seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Their “caliphate” has since been reduced to a rump territory of desert in the east of war-torn Syria.

The fate of those who survived ferocious onslaughts by various forces against IS has been a major headache for their home governments, which are often against seeing them return.


Iraq Condemns German Woman To Death For Belonging To IS

An Iraqi court said Sunday it had condemned to death by hanging a German woman of Moroccan origin after finding her guilty of belonging to the Islamic State jihadist group.

She was sentenced for providing “logistical support and helping the terrorist group to carry out crimes,” said court spokesman Abdel Settar Bayraqdar.

“The accused admitted during interrogations that she left Germany for Syria then Iraq to join IS with her two daughters, who married members of the terrorist organisation,” he said.

In September 2017, the same court sentenced to death by hanging a Russian man who was captured in Iraq’s second city Mosul and found guilty of fighting for IS.

Iraqi forces expelled the jihadists from Mosul in July 2017, ending three years of IS rule in the city.

The same month, a German teenage girl suspected of joining IS was arrested in Mosul, according to Germany’s justice department.

German daily Der Spiegel reported she had been held in Baghdad with three other German women including one of Moroccan origin.

Baghdad declared victory over IS in December after expelling the jihadists from vast areas of Iraq it seized in 2014.

There are no official figures for arrests of jihadists during the battle against IS, but Iraqi commanders and Iraqi Kurdish fighters say hundreds gave themselves up.

Others are said to have escaped by blending in with civilians fleeing the fighting.

In the province surrounding Mosul alone, more than 4,000 jihadists were arrested, police chief General Wathiq al-Hamdani said.

Despite Baghdad declaring victory over the jihadists, IS has continued to carry out attacks including in the capital.