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French court sentences mother of jihadist for financing terrorism

Screen grab France 24

The mother of a Franco-Algerian jihadist who is believed to have died in Syria was sentenced Thursday in Paris to two years in prison for "financing terrorism" by sending him money, a conviction her lawyer said she intends to appeal.

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The criminal court did not, however, order the immediate incarceration of Nathalie Haddadi, as requested by the prosecutor at a September 5 hearing. The prosecution had requested 18 months' imprisonment.

The 43-year-old intends to appeal, according to her lawyer, Hervé Denis.

Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Denis noted that there are some 2,000 radicalised French citizens fighting with jihadists abroad. “So this case doesn’t only concern Mrs Haddadi, it involves all parents of radicalised children.”

"I can understand severity when you are guilty," he said. "But when it comes to sentencing a crying mother just as a matter of principle, I think that is disgraceful."

He added: "It’s not tough – it’s mean."

Haddadi's lawyer, Hervé Denis, speaks to reporters

Haddadi, a non-practicing Muslim and business adviser in Alsace, was accused of buying airline tickets to Algeria for her son, Belabbas Bounaga, who joined his father there in early November 2015.

She said she sent her son to Algeria so that his father could "save" him.

Haddadi said she had informed the authorities that her son had been radicalised while doing a stint in jail for drug trafficking and aggravated assault. Boulaga was subsequently prohibited from leaving French territory.

"I cannot believe that I am being associated with financing terrorism; I helped my son" to eat, Haddadi said. "I never sent money to Syria or Turkey."

Haddadi's youngest son, Tarik, and the elder’s best friend, Souliman Hamouten, were also tried for sending money to Bounaga, and were sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence and three years in prison, respectively.

Haddadi was also accused of hiding her son’s passport from the authorities and of having paid for other flights as well as sending some €2,800 to him while he was travelling in Malaysia.

From Malaysia Bounaga eventually joined the jihadist Islamic State group in Syria. In August 2016, his mother received a call telling her of his death at 21 years of age.

Speaking to the press on the day of the hearing, she denounced the "double punishment" of losing a son and going on trial.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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