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TERRORISM

Iraq sentences Frenchman to life imprisonment for IS membership

An Iraqi court on Monday sentenced a French man and a German woman to life in prison in the latest punishments handed down for belonging to the Islamic State jihadist group.

Iraq sentences Frenchman to life imprisonment for IS membership
Photo: AFP

Frenchman Lahcen Gueboudj, 58, and a German woman whose name was given only as Nadia were sentenced separately at the Baghdad central criminal court, according to an AFP journalist.

The French defendant refuted earlier statements in which he purportedly admitted to pledging allegiance to IS and undertaking training with the jihadists.

“I signed confessions in Arabic without knowing what was written,” said Gueboudj, with short grey hair and stubble, wearing a brown prison uniform.

“I would never have left France, if my eldest son Nabil, 25-years-old, hadn’t gone to Syria,” he said in French.

“I wanted to convince him to return with us to France,” added Gueboudj.

The French citizen had travelled with his wife and children to Turkey before entering Syria, telling the court he was detained by Syrian rebels and transferred to Iraq by US forces. 

Nadia’s mother, a German woman of Moroccan origin, was sentenced to death in January for IS membership but the sentence was later commuted to life, which in Iraq is equivalent to 20 years.

The mother and daughter were arrested in July 2017 in Mosul, the jihadists’ former de-facto capital in Iraq where the government declared victory over IS in December last year.

Wearing a black abaya in court, Nadia said she travelled from Syria to Iraq “to run away from the people of IS”.

Speaking in German with a few Arabic words, she said she travelled to Syria from Turkey with her mother, her daughter Yamana and her mentally disabled sister who was killed in a bombardment.

Nadia’s lawyer stressed that she was a minor at the time and that her marriage to an IS jihadist in Syria was “not a decision taken by an adult in full conscience”.

A number of Europeans have been jailed in Iraq for IS membership since the collapse of the jihadists' self-declared “caliphate”.

French women Djamila Boutoutaou and Melina Boughedir, who were given 20-year life terms earlier this year, both said they had been tricked by their husbands.

In May, Belgian jihadist Tarik Jadaoun, also known as Abu Hamza al-Beljiki, was sentenced to death by hanging. He pleaded not guilty to a range of terrorism-related charges. 

 

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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