Norwegian prosecutors won a precedent-setting case on Tuesday against a young Pakistani-Norwegian woman who had married an ISIL terrorist and traveled to Syria to join him. The Oslo County Court ruled that she had thus taken part in a terrorist organization, and sentenced her to three-and-a-half years in prison. She appealed on the spot.
The case was the first involving the spouse of a terrorist, in this case another Norwegian man, Bastian Vasquez, who already had traveled to Syria to join ISIL. He was later killed while making a bomb.
She had denied any involvement in the terrorist activities, claimed she was only a housewife and argued that she had tried to leave the ISIL community in which she’d landed and return to Norway. Her defense attorney had tried to mount a case that she was a victim of human trafficking.
The court, however, stressed that the woman knew already in October 2012 that there was a civil war going on in Syria, that Vasquez was taking part in it and in battles, making himself guilty of war crimes. “She was well aware that (the group) was terror-listed in the US,” the court noted. She also was clearly planning to stay in Syria, after disposing of her possessions before she left Norway.
Once there, according to the court, she contributed to the work of the terrorist organization by keeping house and, not least, having children with terrorists. That made her guilty of participation in a terrorist organization, and that she had knowingly and willingly associated herself with it.
The ruling and its relatively strict prison sentence is important because it makes not only terror suspects but their partners criminally liable. It can have implications for other women from Norway who are still in Syria, now mostly in refugee camps, because the court determined their roles in the terrorist organization were important. The court leaned heavily on expert opinions that the women were “invaluable supporters” for ISIL that made their jihad possible. They helped ISIL recruit new members and female partners, they helped motivate ISIL warriors, kept house, fed them and, not least, contributed towards creating new generations of Islamic extremists.
The defendant in this case, who still isn’t being publicly identified, was ultimately freed from the refugee camp and brought back to Norway at taxpayer expense along with her children, because one of them was seriously ill. Norway’s Conservatives-led government coalition had first tried to only rescue the children from the camp and bring them back to Norway, since all are Norwegian citizens. The woman had refused, however, to be separated from her children, even if it meant that they had to stay in the camp with her.
Their return to Norway in January of last year also led to a government crisis because the conservative Progress Party adamantly opposed bringing her back to Norway. Progress left the government shortly thereafter, leaving it in a minority position in Parliament.