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French court sentences mother who took her children to Syria to eight years in prison

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FILE PHOTO: Children play near damaged houses in Kobani, Syria
FILE PHOTO: Children play near damaged houses in Kobani, Syria   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Ali Ashisho
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A woman who spent nine months in Syria with her three young children in 2017 has been given an eight-year jail term.

Rajae Moujahid, a 37-year-old Italian-Moroccan citizen, was tried at a Paris tribunal for "criminal conspiracy for terrorist purposes" and "subtraction of children".

In March 2017, just a few months after the bloody Nice attack near her hometown of Antibes, she went to Syria, taking her nine-year-old daughter and her two sons, aged seven and five.

"It was a prepared departure, which she dissimulated and considered as definitive," the court said.

"This woman, who was already married, joined a 'fighter' with whom she had an online relationship. They wed when she arrived in the region of Idleb, north-west of Syria," the court continued.

Ahrar al-Sham, the Islamist militant group she joined, does not appear on the list of terrorist organisations established by international bodies. But it had "operational links with al-Qaeda" and can, therefore, be considered as a terror group under French law, the court said.

Rajae Moujahid returned to Turkey in December 2017, as she was seven months pregnant, before being deported to Italy and detained in France under an arrest warrant.

The mother was in possession of official documents from Ahrar al-Sham and her phone contained jihadist propaganda photos.

The daughter of an architect, Moujahid studied philosophy and sociology and continued her education in a hotel management school in Morocco.

She claimed she had wanted to flee her husband — an Italian converted to Islam — who, she said, was violent and jealous. Her move to Syria was only decided once she arrived in Turkey, she said.

"She joined a man, not an ideology, not a group," said her lawyer Margaux Durand-Poincloux. The attorney asked the tribunal to condemn her client "only for what she actually did: endangering her children. "

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