German IS member on trial for war crimes in Munich

The trial of a German woman who allegedly joined the "Islamic State" terror group in Iraq has begun in Munich. She's accused of the war crime of letting an enslaved Yazidi girl die of thirst.

A German woman suspected of traveling to Iraq to join "Islamic State" (IS) appeared in a Munich court on Tuesday to face a string of charges, including committing a war crime.

The defendant, identified as 27-year-old Jennifer W., is accused of allowing a 5-year-old Yazidi captive to die of thirst by leaving her chained up outside in the 45-degree heat. 

The accused faces life in prison if found guilty of joining a terror group, weapons offenses, war crimes and murder.

The trial was adjourned soon after it began under tight security at the Munich Higher Regional Court, and is expected to resume on April 29. 

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'Agonizing death' in the scorching heat

Prosecutors say Jennifer W. left Germany in 2014 to join the IS extremist group in Iraq. Once there, she and her husband, an IS fighter, allegedly bought the Yazidi girl and her mother as household slaves.

"After the girl fell ill and wet her mattress, the husband of the accused chained her up outside as punishment and let the child die an agonizing death of thirst in the scorching heat," prosecutors charge. "The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl."

Prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney is part of the team representing the deceased Yazidi girl's mother, who will be called as a witness in the trial.

According to Yazda, a US-based Yazidi rights organization, the Munich case marks the first indictment of international crimes committed by IS members against the Yazidi religious minority. 

Read more: German prosecutors 'will pursue' Yazidi woman's claims about IS captor 

Related Subjects

The plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq

The Yazidis: A history of persecution

For hundreds of years, the Yazidi community has been persecuted for its religious views, an amalgamation of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Throughout their history, they have been killed, forced to convert to other religions and even taken as slaves. While the Kurdish-speaking minority community in northern Iraq had been attacked before, 2014 marked a tragic turning point in history.

The plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq

Genocide

In 2014, the "Islamic State" militant group launched a blitzkrieg campaign across Iraq and Syria, capturing large swathes of territory and laying waste to areas such as Mount Sinjar, the ancestral homeland of the Yazidis. More than 5,000 people were killed and up to 10,000 kidnapped, many of them children. The event was described by the UN as a genocide.

The plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq

Slavery

The "Islamic State" abducted hundreds of girls and women and enslaved them in the wake of the assault. The militant group created a database of all the women, including pictures of them, to document who bought them and to ensure they do not escape. While dozens of women were able to escape, hundreds more remain missing.

The plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq

Missing

Thousands of men, women and children remain missing. Critics have accused Iraqi authorities of doing little to find those who were abducted after Baghdad declared military victory over the militant group in December 2017. Family members fear that up to 3,000 Yazidis will remain indefinitely unaccounted for.

The plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq

Scattered

In the wake of the "Islamic State" militant group's systematic assault on the Yazidis, many have fled to neighboring countries, Europe and beyond. While some families have found refuge outside their country, others have been forced to stay in camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. Although the UN is helping to rebuild houses in their ancestral homeland, many still believe IS poses a threat to their existence.

What happened to Jennifer W.?

Jennifer W. grew up in the northern German state of Lower Saxony as a protestant. She reportedly left school after the 8th grade and converted to Islam in 2013 — the year before she traveled to the Middle East.

After allegedly joining IS in Iraq, she was recruited to an "anti-vice squad" in the extremist group's morality police. According to prosecutors, her job was to patrol city parks in Fallujah and Mosul, armed with an AK-47 rifle and an explosives vest, to ensure that women obeyed IS clothing and behavior regulations.

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She was arrested in 2016 when she attempted to apply for new identity papers at the German Embassy in Ankara. Turkish authorities then extradited her to Germany, where she was formally taken into custody in June 2018 following an investigation into her activities.

According to German news magazine Spiegel, the defendant incriminated herself while talking to an undercover FBI informant in a bugged car. During the conversation, she reportedly said that the death of the little girl had been "hardcore even for the IS" and unjust because only God had the right to use fire as punishment. She added that her husband had later been punished by IS.

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.

nm/jm (AFP, dpa)

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