Mélina Boughedir left her home in France with her four children in 2015 to follow her husband to Iraq, where he joined the Islamic State (IS) group. An Iraqi court sentenced her to life in prison on Sunday for belonging to the terrorist organisation, reports FRANCE 24.
Boughedir, 27, was captured with her children by Iraqi forces in Mosul in July 2017, at the end of a protracted battle to retake the city from the IS group.
She was initially condemned to seven months in prison by a court in Baghdad in February for entering the country illegally and was to be deported to France at the end of her sentence.
But upon examining her case, an appeals court ordered that she be retried, arguing that Boughedir was aware of her husband’s plans to join the IS group and had “knowingly” followed him to Iraq, therefore violating the country’s anti-terrorism law, under which acts of terrorism are punishable by death.
Boughedir has denied the charges, testifying on Sunday that she travelled to Iraq under false pretenses. She appeared in court wearing a dress and a black veil, clutching her youngest daughter in her arms. Her three older children have been repatriated to France.
“I am innocent,” she told the judge in French, with the aid of a translator. “My husband tricked me and then he threatened to leave with the children”.
Boughedir said she was opposed to the IS group’s ideology and condemned the actions of her husband, who is also a French citizen. She added that she did not know his whereabouts, testifying she hadn’t heard from him since he left one day to get water.
Despite her claims of innocence the court ruled against Boughedir, finding she was fully aware of her husband’s intentions.
“The evidence gathered is enough to sentence the criminal to life,” it ruled.