Re-trial lands French IS woman sentence to life in Iraqi prison

An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced a French woman to life in jail for being a member of the Islamic State (IS).

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced a French woman to life in jail for being a member of the Islamic State (IS).

Last February, an Iraqi court sentenced Melina Boughedir, a French national and mother of four, to seven months in jail for “illegally” entering the country, and she was set to be extradited to France. Another Iraqi court, however, ordered a re-trial under the country’s anti-terrorism law, according to AFP.

The second Iraqi court on Sunday found her guilty of having links with the jihadist group.

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

“My husband duped me and then threatened to leave with the children” unless she joined him in traveling to Iraq, where he planned to join IS, Boughedir said, quoted by AFP.

Earlier on Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told LCI French TV channel that Boughedir was a “Da’esh (IS) terrorist, who fought against Iraq” and that, as such, she should be tried in Iraq.

The French official’s statement led Boughedir’s lawyer to send a letter to Le Drian, accusing his comments of being an “unacceptable pressure on the Iraqi judicial system” and deeming it to be “interference” in Iraqs judicial process. 

William Bourdon, one of Boughedir’s lawyers, attended her trial on Sunday in Baghdad, arguing for Boughedir’s family and her defense team who want her to be tried at home.

Iraqi forces arrested the French woman in the summer of 2017 in Mosul, the self-proclaimed capital of the extremist group.

Her husband is believed to have been killed during the US-backed military operation to liberate Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq.

Similarly, Djamila Boutoutaou, another French national, was sentenced to life prison by an Iraqi court in April for membership to IS.

Following the emergence of IS in Iraq and Syria in 2014, many foreign nationals traveled to the region to join the jihadist group, including a number of French citizens.

Over the past couple of years, Iraqi forces have arrested tens of thousands of people it says are members or affiliates of the jihadist group. Most still await sentencing. 

Despite the UN’s concerns, Iraqi courts have repeatedly issued the death penalty for many IS members who have been arrested and detained under questionable conditions.

In the past year, Iraq has executed dozens of IS members. Iraqi courts recently sentenced 212 people to death in Mosul and surrounding areas, most of them for membership to the extremist group.

International humanitarian organizations, including the United Nations, say efforts by Iraqi authorities to speed up the implementation of death sentences could lead to the execution of innocent people.

The death penalty in Iraq was suspended on June 10, 2003, but was reinstated the following year.

Editing by Nadia Riva