Melina Boughedir, a French citizen, was put back on trial in Baghdad on Wednesday over terrorism charges for allegedly joining the Islamic State group in Iraq.
The 27-year-old mother of four faces the death penalty over her alleged membership of the jihadist organization. Arrested in the summer of 2017 in Mosul, Boughedir was sentenced last February to seven months in prison for “illegal” entry into the country and was set to be deported back to France.
But upon re-examining her file, an Iraqi court found that Boughedir knew her husband planned on joining IS in Iraq and that she “knowingly” followed him, a judicial source said.
On the first day of her new trial Wednesday, the judge asked Boughedir if she knew where her husband was. “One day he went to get water and he disappeared, I don’t know anything about it,” she said.
When asked if she believed in IS’s ideology, she said: “Not at all. This is the case for many foreign women married to Daesh men,” using an Arabic acronym to refer to the jihadists. The judge showed Boughedir a series of photos, in one of which she appeared, asking whether she recognized different people.
“For someone who claims to have been forced to come to Iraq because your husband was threatening to take your children, you look very relaxed,” the judge said, referring to the picture. “I was at home and the picture was taken by my husband,” Boughedir said.
The next hearing is set for June 3 at the request of Boughedir’s new attorney, an Iraqi chosen by the family.
The decision to put her back on trial came as a surprise to her former lawyer, William Bourdon: “The Iraqi law only allows us to observe with a translator,” he explained. The lawyers obtained the repatriation of three of her children in December 2017. “It is inhuman to separate the children from their mother,” he said, “what’s more, they may have critical information for French services.”
President Macron had previously acknowledged her case in April and said that France would intervene if the death penalty was decided on: “We will ask, as we do every time, that this sentence is commuted to a sentence that is consistent with what France supports, i.e. a prison sentence.”
“I don’t understand what’s happening. It’s psychologically difficult to live,” she said in the courtroom. “I learned from the French consulate that I had to be retried for new elements [in the case] but I was not given any more details. I’ve already spent ten months in jail.”