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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Iraq sentences Turkish ISIL widow to death 

Court also issued life imprisonment to 10 women guilty of participating in acts of terror

In this March 19, 2017, file photo, a boy rides his bike past destroyed cars and houses in a neighborhood liberated by Iraqi security forces on the western side of Mosul. Felipe Dana / AP
In this March 19, 2017, file photo, a boy rides his bike past destroyed cars and houses in a neighborhood liberated by Iraqi security forces on the western side of Mosul. Felipe Dana / AP

A Turkish woman was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on Monday for joining ISIL, with 10 other foreign wives receiving life in prison for terrorism offences.

The case was the biggest yet involving spouses of fighters from abroad -- Iraqi authorities say more than 500 are in custody -- who lived with the insurgents as they battled government forces.

Only the woman condemned to death, speaking through an interpreter, acknowledged that she willingly travelled to Iraq with her husband and their children.The other women were mostly Turkish but one was an Azerbaijani citizen.

Aged between 20 and 50, the women were arrested in the northern cities of Mosul and Tal Afar where their husbands were killed when Iraqi forces reclaimed all the territory captured by ISIL when the group surged into Iraq in 2014. Rights groups were critical of the convictions.

The presiding judge, Abdul-Sattar Al-Birqdar, said: "The court issued 10 verdicts of life in prison against 10 women after convicting them of terrorism, and sentenced to death by hanging another terrorist who holds Turkish citizenship."

Since its surge into northern and central Iraq in 2014, thousands of foreign fighters have joined ISIL in committing acts of violence.

The women were found guilty under Article 4 of Iraq's anti-terrorism law against "any person who commits, incites, plans, finances or assists in acts of terrorism". They were also convicted of entering the country illegally.

The Turkish woman condemned to death broke down in tears while another almost fainted. All have one month to appeal their verdicts.

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An Iraqi security spokesman said that 509 foreign women, including 300 Turks, are being held in Iraq along with 813 children.

State-appointed lawyers argued that the women were not involved in any acts of violence but had all been forced into coming to Iraq.

"I got to know my husband through the internet. He proposed we meet in Turkey but an intermediary there told me he would drive me to my future husband without saying where," said Angie Omrane, the Azeri woman.

“I thought we were staying in Turkey but I found myself in Syria and then my husband took me to Iraq," Omrane said, adding that “I didn’t take part in any violent action. I stayed at home the whole time.”

Leila, one of the Turkish women, said: "My husband forced me to come to Iraq by threatening to take away my two-year-old son if I didn’t follow him.

"I didn't take part in any violent action. I stayed at home the whole time. We had to leave Turkey because my husband was a wanted man. I wanted to live in an Islamic state where sharia is the law of the land."

But "I regret having come," said the 48-year-old Turkish woman whose husband and two sons were killed in air strikes.

Belkis Wille, senior Iraq researcher at Human Rights Watch said the court had used the country's overly broad counter terrorism law to convict the women.

"Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an irreversible, degrading, and cruel punishment," she told The National.

"During these trials those who may have been victim to ISIL abuses linked to the acts of these women were not given any opportunity to participate, robbing them of their day in court," she added.

A German woman was sentenced to death last month for belonging to the insurgents and a Russian fighter was also sentenced to death in Iraq last year.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi last autumn declared victory over ISIL, which at one point had seized control of almost one third of the country.

Meanwhile, another Iraqi court on Monday ordered the release of a suspected French extremist.

Melina Bougedir, 27, was sentenced to seven months in prison for illegally entering the country after her arrest last summer in Mosul.

Bougedir said that her French husband was killed as Iraqi forces ousted ISIL from Mosul.

She was arrested with her four children, three of whom have been repatriated to France.

Although the military campaign against ISIL has officially ended, the extremists continue to pose a threat to the county by carrying attacks in various cities.

It claimed an attack on Monday that killed 27 members of a pro-government paramilitary group in an ambush north of Baghdad.

"On Sunday evening, a unit of the Hashed al-Shaabi was ambushed by the Islamic State terrorist group in the Hawija region" about 300 kilometres (185 miles) north of Baghdad, said a statement.

"The attackers were dressed in military uniforms and during the fighting 27 of our heroes were martyred."