First Published: 2018-01-23

Three French female jihadists face possible death penalty in Iraq
Women detained after Iraqi fighters ousted jihadists from Mosul risk death penalty as they await trial in Baghdad.
Middle East Online

French defence minister says "we can't be naive" regarding French citizens who left to join IS

PARIS - Three French women who joined the Islamic State group before being captured by Iraqi forces could be facing the death penalty as they await trial in Baghdad, sources close to their cases said.

The women were detained after Iraqi fighters ousted the jihadists from Mosul last July, one source said, confirming a report on RMC radio.

One 28-year-old woman left in 2015 for the group's "caliphate" stretching over parts of Syria and Iraq along with her husband, who has reportedly been killed.

She is being detained with her daughter, who was born after their arrival.

"We don't know what exactly she is accused of, what her detention conditions are like and whether she is being allowed the means to defend herself," said the woman's lawyer, .

He said he had received "no response" from France's foreign ministry on the case, for which the Red Cross has been his only source of information.

A second woman, a 27-year-old named as Melina, also left for the region in 2015, and is being held with her baby. Her three older children have been returned to France.

"We expect France, if Melina is sentenced to death, to mobilise with the same intensity it has for other French citizens sentenced to death, in particular Serge Atlaoui," said her lawyers, William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth.

French diplomats have waged an intense campaign to free Atlaoui, who is being held in Indonesia and facing the death penalty on drug trafficking charges.

But government officials have said French fighters arrested in Syria and Iraq should be tried there if they can be guaranteed a fair trial.

Defence minister Florence Parly said Sunday that "we can't be naive" regarding French citizens who left to join IS.

"When they are caught by local authorities, as far as possible they should be tried by these local authorities," she told France 3 television.

- Children detained -

On Sunday, an Iraqi court condemned a German woman to death by hanging after finding her guilty of belonging to IS, the first such sentence in a case involving a European woman.

In December, an Iraqi-Swedish man was hanged along with 37 others accused of being IS or Al-Qaeda members, despite efforts by Sweden to have the prisoner serve a life sentence instead.

Iraqi authorities have not disclosed how many jihadists are being held prisoner since the counter-offensive that dislodged IS fighters from the country's urban centres last year.

Around 40 French citizens, both men and women, are currently in detention camps or prisons in Syria and Iraq, including about 20 children, a source close to the matter has said.

On Monday, Parly reiterated that she had "no qualms" regarding the fate of French jihadists, despite requests by some of them to be repatriated.

"These jihadists have never had any qualms about what they're doing, and I don't see why we should have any for them," she said.


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