Djamila Boutoutaou, a 29-year-old woman of Algerian origin, told a Baghdad court she was “tricked” into moving to ISIS-controlled Iraq by her husband, Mohammed Nassereddine, a former rapper who was killed in the US-led battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS.
She said: “I thought I had married a rapper. It was only when we arrived in Turkey for a week-long ‘holiday’ that I discovered my husband was a jihadist…I’m a victim. My husband beat me and locked me up in a cave with my children when I refused to follow him [to Syria].”
Her lawyers William Bourdon and Martin Pradel have since denounced the “brutal” legal procedure, saying that they had not been informed of the trial’s “imminence” and had therefore been unable to attend their client’s hearing.
“[Mrs Boutoutaou] was appointed an Iraqi lawyer who knew nothing about the case and our client’s situation,” they said, adding that they had found out the young woman had been sentenced to life in prison “in the press”.
“I know that many French people believe that those who left France to join the jihad in Iraq and Syria do not deserve clemency, but no one should rejoice at such a blatant contempt for the fundamental principles of fair trial,” Bourdon said.
The two men have also called for Boutoutaou and her child to be sent back to France “once the sentence is confirmed.”
Contacted by Le Monde, Pradel said he was surprised by the verdict: “We have repeatedly alerted the French authorities to her case. On Sunday, for the first time, she was able to receive a visit from the consulate in Baghdad… She was sentenced a few hours later without being able to be defended. It’s a shame.”
Her second lawyer, William Bourdon, expressed his “cynicism” regarding “the management of French cases, which allows them to wash their hands of [the prisoners’] fates.” In a press release, the two lawyers denounced a “clear disregard for the fundamental principles of a fair trial” and called on France to demand compliance with these principles “in the context of the necessary appeals procedure” as well as the repatriation of Djamila Boutoutaou and her infant child.
France’s Attorney General Nicole Belloube was later asked by a journalist if Boutoutaou would be forced to serve her life sentence in Iraq. “For the moment, there is no question of anything else,” Belloube replied.