French Woman Sentenced to Life in Jail by Iraqi Court for Belonging to ISIS
The Iraqi criminal court sentenced on Sunday a French woman to life in prison for belonging to the ISIS terrorist group.
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-terrorist law and on Sunday she was found guilty of belonging to ISIS.
"I am innocent," Boughedir told the judge in French.
"My husband duped me and then threatened to leave with the children" unless she followed him to Iraq, where he planned on joining ISIS, she said.
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 ISIS in its self-declared “caliphate” after the terrorist group seized the northern third of Iraq and swathes of Syria in 2014.
Even before she was sentenced, Boughedir's case sparked anger from her defense 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 an ISIS “terrorist who fought against Iraq" and said she should be tried on Iraqi soil.
Arrested in the summer of 2017 in Mosul, the former capital of ISIS'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 ISIS 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 terrorist 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 ISIS, after Djamila Boutoutaou, 29, in April.
Boutoutaou also said she had been tricked by her husband.