BAGHDAD (AFP) – An Iraqi court on Saturday (June 2) sentenced a French woman to life in jail for membership of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, an AFP reporter at the courthouse said.
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 her re-trial under Iraq’s anti-terrorist law.
The 27-year-old 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.
On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French news channel LCI that Boughedir was a “Daesh (ISIS) terrorist who fought against Iraq” and said she should be tried in Iraq.
This prompted her French lawyers to send a letter of protest to Le Drian, seen by AFP, in which they denounced “unacceptable pressure on the Iraqi judicial system” and “interference”.
On Saturday, one of her lawyers, who travelled to Baghdad for the trial, William Bourdon, told AFP that Boughedir’s family and her defence team want her to return to France and face a court there.
Boughedir was arrested in the summer of 2017 in Mosul, the capital of ISIS’ self-declared “caliphate”.
Her husband is believed to have been killed during a vast operation by US-led coalition-backed Iraqi forces to seize the country’s second city back from militant control.
In April, an Iraqi court sentenced another French women, Djamila Boutoutaou, to life in prison for belonging to ISIS, despite her pleas that she too had been tricked by her husband.
Dozens of French citizens suspected of having joined ISIS ranks are believed to be in detention in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, including several minors.