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French mother of 'Islamic State' fighter sentenced to two years prison for financing terrorist activities

Nathalie Haddadi said she was sending her son money to help finance his medical treatment in Malaysia and did not know anything about his plans to fight in Syria. A French judge did not believe her.

A court in Paris sentenced a woman to two years prison on Thursday for financing terrorism after she sent money to her son fighting with the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria.

Nathalie Haddadi, a non-practicing Muslim living near Alsace in eastern France, admitted to transferring money to her son, Belabbas Bounaga, but denied having any knowledge that he was using the money to fight with the radical Islamist militants.

"I have trouble understanding how they can accuse me of financing terrorism," Haddadi said before the verdict was announced.

The judge refuted that claim, saying Haddadi knew "perfectly well" that her son was using the money to travel to Syria.

"Without your substantial help he would not have been able to reach Syria so easily and fight with Islamic State," he told Haddadi. "You financed a terrorist organization."

Haddadi transferred 2,800 euros ($3,300) to Bounaga while he was receiving medical treatment in Malaysia before he travelled to Syria. Haddadi said she sent the money to cover her son's medical costs.

Islamic State flag

Haddadi's son joined 'Islamic State' once he arrived in Syria. He is believed to have died fighting there in 2016.

The prosecutor had demanded an 18 month jail sentence, but the judge lengthened the term to two years in line with "the gravity" of the acts. The court also convicted Bounaga's younger brother and best friend of financing terrorism.

Bounaga is believed to have been radicalized while serving a prison sentence for drug offences between 2014 and 2015.

Haddadi then gave her son money to visit his father in Algeria. He spent six months there before travelling to Malaysia. According to Haddadi, Bounaga died while fighting in Syria in 2016.

Haddadi's lawyer has said she would appeal the verdict.

18,500 French citizens are believed to have been radicalized according to France's interior ministry, a 60 percent increase compared to two years ago. Hundreds are estimated to have been so-called "foreign fighters" in Iraq and Syria in mid-2016.

Read more: UN: Number of foreign fighters joining militants skyrockets to 25,000

amp/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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