A German woman was sentenced to death in Iraq on Sunday for joining the Islamic State (ISIS), a first in the country where hundreds of foreign jihadists are awaiting trial in prison after the military defeat of their organization.
In December, the Iraqi authorities proclaimed the military victory against ISIS, which had shaken Iraq for three years after seizing one third of the country’s territory.
They never officially indicated the number of jihadists captured during the counter-offensive to drive ISIS out of the country. But according to Iraqi and Kurdish commanders, hundreds of jihadists would have surrendered, thousands more would have managed to sneak among the displaced or stay on the spot by returning to “civilian life”.
On Sunday, the Central Criminal Court of Baghdad, responsible in particular for terrorism cases, sentenced to hanging the German national of Moroccan origin, whose identity was not specified.
She was convicted of “logistical support and assistance to a terrorist organization to commit crimes,” Judge Abdel Settar Bayraqdar, a spokeswoman for the court, said in a statement.
This is the first time that Iraqi justice has imposed the death sentence on a European woman.
The German has 30 days to appeal and after this period, she can be executed.
“The accused admitted during the interrogations to have left Germany for Syria and then Iraq to join ISIS, with her two daughters who married members of the terrorist organization,” the spokesman said.
A judicial source told journalists that one of the two girls had been killed while she was with ISIS.
According to German press, a German named Lamia K. and her daughter, whi left Mannheim in 2014 (south-west), were arrested in Iraq during the recapture last July by Iraqi forces of Mosul (north), the second city in Iraq. At least two other Germans are also in prison in Iraq, the teenager Linda Wenzel and a certain Fatima M. who is of Chechen origin.
In September, the same Iraqi Central Criminal Court had for the first time sentenced to death a Russian jihadist arrested in Mosul. In December, a Swede of Iraqi origin was executed, along with 37 others convicted of “terrorism”.
According to the German intelligence services, 910 people “left Germany to join jihadist groups in Syria or Iraq”. About a third of them returned to Germany, 70 of whom are considered combatants. 145 others were killed.
In a report in October, the Soufan research center noted that 190 German women with 70 children had joined the “caliphate” proclaimed in 2014 by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and today in tatters.
In the only province of Nineveh, of which Mosul is the chief town, “more than 4,000 jihadists have been arrested” since July, according to the police.
On the Lawfare blog, specializing in security issues, researcher Kim Cragin of the National Defense University said in late November that 5,395 foreigners were in jail in Syria and Iraq.
According to an Iraqi security source, captured foreign jihadists are brought before a judge of the counter-terrorism bureau in Baghdad for interrogation before being brought before an anti-terrorism court.
In July, German justice announced the arrest in Mosul of a 16-year-old German who had joined ISIS. German diplomats had visited him in a prison in the Baghdad airport area, according to the press.
The question of the fate of Western jihadists captured in Syria and Iraq is hotly debated. Ssome of them or their relatives have asked to return to their country of origin after the defeat of ISIS.
The total number of people imprisoned in Iraq for alleged membership of ISIS is 20,000, according to researchers.
The anti-terrorism law in Iraq allows to indict people who are not involved in violent acts but are suspected of having helped IS.
NGOs working in the country have accused the security forces of “using torture to obtain confessions”.