A Swedish woman who joined the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for taking her young son with her, the first time Sweden has convicted an IS woman.
The 31-year-old woman, who arrived in Syria via Turkey in mid 2014, was convicted of “arbitrary conduct with a child” for putting her then two-year-old son’s life at risk, the court said in a ruling obtained by AFP.
After her arrest by Kurdish forces in early 2018 followed by lengthy detentions in prison camps, the woman managed to flee to Turkey in early 2020. She was expelled to Sweden in November, with her son and two other children born from her marriage to an IS fighter.
The court in the southern town of Lund ruled that the woman must have known she was travelling to a war zone controlled by the jihadist organisation which had just declared a caliphate in the territories it controlled in Syria and Iraq.
Separated from her son’s father — the plaintiff in the case — the mother had received his permission to take the boy on the trip, telling him they were going on vacation to Turkey.
She told the court she only intended to spend a few days in Syria, but the court said the prosecutor had proven she had intended to stay.
The woman plans to appeal the verdict, her lawyer told Swedish news agency TT.
Around 300 Swedes or Swedish residents, a quarter of whom are women, joined IS in Syria and Iraq, most of them in 2013 and 2014, according to Sweden’s intelligence service Sapo.
“Around half of them, about 150, have returned,” Magnus Ranstorp, terrorism expert at the Swedish Defence University, told AFP.
Sweden did not have existing legislation at the time to prosecute people for membership in a terrorist organisation, so there have been very few trials in Sweden, Ranstorp said.
Murders or war crimes can be investigated but convictions remain difficult to obtain.
Two Swedes were however sentenced to life in prison in December 2015 by a court in Gothenburg, their conviction resting largely on videos showing them participating in decapitations.
Other returning IS fighters have been convicted of crimes and misdemeanours in Sweden, according to local media.
According to Ranstorp, 75 percent of those who joined a jihadist organisation are Swedish nationals, and 34 percent were born in Sweden.