German Isis supporter bought five-year-old Yazidi girl as slave then let her die of thirst, court hears

While devoted followers of the Islamic State group, a man and woman bought a 5-year-old Yazidi girl in Iraq to use as a slave, then let her die of thirst in the scorching heat, German authorities contend. The trial of the woman began Tuesday — one of the highest-profile cases against a female member of the terrorist group.

The prosecution stems largely from the words of the defendant, who was desperate to return last year to Isis, and found someone willing to drive her to the Middle East. Unknown to her, the driver was working with the German security services, and he recorded their conversations as she told him all about her life in the organisation.

The 27-year-old German woman, identified only as Jennifer W. in keeping with German privacy law, showed no emotion during the 15 minutes it took a judge in Munich to read out the charges against her, which include murder, war crimes, membership in a foreign terror organisation and weapons violations.

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No pleas are entered in German courts, and the defendant, wearing a white blouse, black slacks and a black cardigan, declined to make a statement. Her lawyer did not say whether she would say anything during the proceedings, which are scheduled to continue until September.

But the Yazidi girl’s mother, whose identity has not been released, is expected to testify, providing both key evidence and the emotional heart of the case. The mother, who says she was also held as a slave by the German woman and her husband, is serving as a co-plaintiff in the trial but was not in court for the opening proceedings.


“Our client would like to see justice served, as well as the opportunity to finally give a full account of her suffering and that of her daughter,” one of the woman’s lawyers, Natalie von Wistinghausen, said in a statement.

The girl’s mother is also represented by Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer.

When ISIS overran northern Iraq in 2014, thousands of Yazidi women and girls were abducted and sold to ISIS members as slaves. They also became victims of brutal sexual assault.

According to the indictment, Jennifer W. and her husband “bought a 5-year-old girl in summer 2015 from a group of prisoners of war and kept her in their home as a slave.”

“After the girl fell ill and wet her mattress, the defendant’s husband punished the girl by chaining her up outside in the searing heat and leaving her in great agony to die of thirst,” prosecutors said. “The defendant let her husband do as he liked, and took no action to save the girl.”

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Officials have not identified the husband, but German news media have reported he is an ISIS member, believed to be living in the region where Iraq borders Turkey.

If convicted, Jennifer W. faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The trial “is important for all Yazidi survivors,” said Nadia Murad, a Yazidi activist who survived being forced into sexual slavery by ISIS and went on to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. “Every survivor I have met and spoken to is waiting for the same thing — for the perpetrators to be prosecuted for their crimes against Yazidis, including women and children.”

The mother of the girl was found with the help of Yazda, an organisation that has been documenting crimes committed against the Yazidi minority since 2015.

Germany is struggling with how to handle dozens of women who left the country for Syria and Iraq, many of whom married ISIS fighters, and now have children who are German citizens. While they are legally allowed to return home, many Germans do not want to see them allowed back without being tried for their roles in supporting the terror organisation.

But German law requires concrete proof of wrongdoing, so without evidence like photos showing them posing with weapons, or social media accounts where they spread propaganda or sought to recruit others, it can be difficult to bring charges against them.

In the case of Jennifer W., prosecutors were helped by her own eagerness to tell the man who offered to drive her as far as Turkey about her life in ISIS. U.S. intelligence officials had tipped off their colleagues in Germany about the woman, allowing the Germans to set her up with a driver, whose car was bugged, German news media reported.

She told the driver about leaving her home in northwestern Germany in August 2014 and making her way through Turkey and Syria to Iraq. Once she arrived, prosecutors said, she joined the Islamic State group and swiftly rose through the ranks, becoming a member of the Hisbah, the morality police, patrolling the parks of the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Mosul.

“Her job was to make sure that women were upholding the terror organisation’s dress and behaviour codes,” they said. “To intimidate them, she carried an AK-47 machine gun, a pistol and an explosive vest.”

In January 2016, she visited the German Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, and Turkish authorities arrested her. They deported her to Germany, where she was allowed to go free.

According to prosecutors, she spent the next two years working to return to ISIS-controlled territory and found someone to take her most of the way there. She and the driver set out, and she was arrested last June, after telling her story but before they had left Germany.


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