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JIHADISTS

France refuses to repatriate Brittany’s notorious female Isis jihadist

The French government says it has no intention to repatriate the daughter of a French policeman from Brittany, who became a notorious jihadist recruiter before being captured in Syria. She will be tried in Syria, the government says.

France refuses to repatriate Brittany's notorious female Isis jihadist
Photo: Screengrab from documentary made by Agnes D Feo

Female French jihadists arrested in Kurdish-held parts of Syria should face justice there so long as they can be guaranteed a fair trial, the French government said on Thursday.

Debate has been swirling in France over the fate of women who went to Syria to marry Islamist fighters and now find themselves in custody, following a series of defeats for the Islamic State group.

This week Emilie Konig, a 33-year-old Muslim convert from Brittany who became a notorious jihadist recruiter, became the latest of a string of European women to plead publicly to be repatriated.

But French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux indicated Thursday that there were no plans to bring her home.

If “there are legal institutions capable of guaranteeing a fair trial assuring their right to a defence”, women arrested in Kurdish-held Syria should be “judged there”, Griveaux told RMC radio.

“Whatever crime may have been committed — even the most despicable — French citizens abroad must have a guaranteed right to a defence,” he added.

“We must have confirmation of that.”

Konig, who features on UN and US blacklists of dangerous militants, was arrested in early December and is being held in a Kurdish camp with her three
young children along with several other French women.

“They have been arrested, and as far as we know they did not surrender of their own accord,” Griveaux said. “They were arrested in combat.”

Konig's lawyer Bruno Vinay argued Wednesday that France must repatriate her under its “international commitments”.

A policeman's daughter who converted after meeting her first husband, Konig set off for Syria in 2012, leaving her first two children in France to join
her new partner, who was later killed.

She frequently appeared in propaganda videos and French intelligence intercepted messages to her contacts at home urging them to attack French
institutions or the wives of soldiers.

Some 30 French jihadists, both men and women, are currently in the custody of Kurdish and Iraqi forces, according to a source close to the investigation.

In October, around 20 families wrote to President Emmanuel Macron urging him to bring their daughters home to face the courts in France, warning they
could face torture or death if left in Syria or Iraq.

Of some 5,000 EU jihadists believed to have gone to fight, around a third have returned home, according to the Soufan Center, a US-based NGO that
conducts research on global security.

So far, France, Germany and Britain have tackled returnees on a case-by-case basis.

In France, rightwing politicians have come out firmly against repatriation, saying such women chose to betray their country and should be left to their fate.

JIHADISTS

French families sue government over children of jihadists stuck in Syria

The families of several children and wives of French jihadist fighters in Syria have filed lawsuits against France's top diplomat over his refusal to let them come to France.

French families sue government over children of jihadists stuck in Syria
Two detained French women who fled the Islamic State group's last pocket in Syria sit with their children . AFP

The suits, filed in July and September, accuse Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of “failing to provide aid” to people in “danger” at camps operated by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria.

The complaints were filed with the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), which hears cases over alleged misconduct by former or serving ministers.

It is the latest legal challenge to France's longstanding opposition to allowing the children and wives of suspected jihadists in Syria or Iraq to return home.

The government, which says it considers requests on a case-by-case basis only, has brought back just 17 children since March, many of them orphans.

Critics say the policy exposes innocent victims of the war, many of whom have suffered serious trauma during the fighting and coalition bombardments, to long-term psychological risks.

“The policy of 'case by case' keeps more than 200 children and their mothers exposed to inhumane and degrading treatment, and at risk of death,” the lawyers said

They note that Kurdish officials are also pressing European governments to repatriate citizens who went to fight for the Islamic State group in Syria, as well as their family members.

“It's a political choice not to save these children and mothers being held arbitrarily,” one of the lawyers, Marie Dose, told AFP.

Asked about the lawsuit, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a statement that France remained “fully mobilised so that each situation is handled with the children's interests in mind.”

“Our priority is to ensure the return of the most vulnerable orphan or isolated children,” she added.

A similar lawsuit was filed against France last May at the European Court of Human Rights, by the grandparents of two children stranded with their French jihadist mother in Syria.

The boy and girl, who were born in Syria, are among an estimated 500 children of French citizens who joined the Islamic State's so-called “caliphate” before the jihadists' last Syrian redoubt was overrun in March.

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