It is the last day before the verdict in the two-and-a-half-year trial that has attracted worldwide attention: the first trial against the subjugation of the Yazidis by Islamic State. And it is the defendant’s last chance to express her view of things. Jennifer W., now 30, has the final say on the German Islamist accused of not preventing her husband from killing a Yazidi child in Fallujah.
But what the defendant says in a clear, strong voice is more than a last word, it’s almost a plea in itself. And it’s a rarely heard side of a defendant against the court. “I can’t understand what kind of monster I’ve been relegated to here,” she says. The verdict against them is based on “speculation, speculation and misjudgment”. Normally, the principle prevails: when in doubt, for the suspect. This principle does not apply to her.
The indictment charges Jennifer W. not only with complicity in attempted murder, but also with slavery resulting in death, which could mean a life sentence. And the court has already made it clear that it could follow. On the other hand, she says that her husband was to blame for the abuse of the child and that he should be held accountable. Her husband is currently on trial in Frankfurt.
What is undisputed in this process: Jennifer W. from Münsterland went to the Islamic State in 2014, she is a staunch Islamist, she wanted to live strict Islam there. She married an Iraqi with whom she lived in Fallujah for several weeks – with them in the household a woman and her five-year-old girl, both Yazidis enslaved by IS.
“It wasn’t easy for me with my ex-husband”
On a hot summer day in 2015, Jennifer W.’s husband tied the child to a window grate in the courtyard and left it there—as punishment for the child’s bedtime. When he took it off, the child stopped responding. The Public Prosecution Service assumes that he died in hospital at the latest. Jennifer W. has confirmed that this incident happened, but she also said there was nothing she could do.
Federal prosecutors say it was reasonable for Jennifer W. to untie the child or seek help and charge her with attempted murder through negligence. In her last word, Jennifer W. refers this to the realm of the imagination. “It wasn’t easy for me with my ex-husband,” she says. She couldn’t have gotten any help. The court has no idea of an Islamic marriage under the IS regime. “I was tied to my husband, in a strange place and without being able to speak the language. He would have attacked me en masse and prevented me from leaving the house.” If she had, it would have been a “loss of face” for him.
In a mixture of bitterness and pride, Jennifer W. accuses the court of being punished for something she didn’t do. “An example must be set in my person for everything that has happened under IS. It is hard to imagine that this is possible in a state under the rule of law.” The defendant is well past the point where diplomacy could play a role.
She expects to face life in prison. And she rarely candidly accuses the court of failing to even examine a Fallujah hospital certificate confirming that a five-year-old girl was undergoing treatment from July 24 to 28, 2015, but that she was released. Paratyphoid had it. The court had ruled that this certificate was irrelevant because it confirmed the child’s previous hospital stay. Such a stay had never been mentioned before.
Jennifer W. now explains that she knows as little as the mother of the child, who testified at the trial, whether the girl survived the ordeal. And she finds it unfair that she is now portrayed as the villain behind her husband and even accused of serving with IS Hisba moral police, which she never did. “For the rest of my life I will carry the stigma of being a police officer and a murderer.”
Finally, Jennifer W. asks the co-plaintiff’s representative to convey her sentences to the mother: “I am very sorry for what was done to her. I am sorry that I have not been able to protect her and the girl. I won’t stop hoping the child is found anyway.”
The verdict will be announced on October 25.