ISIS member accused of letting Yazidi girl die of thirst to face charges of crimes against humanity

Jennifer W left Germany in 2014 to become a member of ISIS’s morality police in Mosul and Fallujah

Defendant Jennifer W. covers her face as she waits for the start of the trial beside her lawyer Ali Aydin in Munich, Germany, April 9, 2019. Jennifer W. is suspected of being an Islamic State supporter who together with her husband kept a chained girl in Iraq before the child died of dehydration in the summer heat.    REUTERS/Ayhan Uyanik

A German woman charged with letting a five-year-old Yazidi girl die of thirst in Iraq could face charges of crimes against humanity, a Munich court found following a second hearing on Monday.

The woman, identified only as Jennifer W, 27, first appeared in court on April 9 facing charges of murder as a war crime, being a member of a terror organisation and violating the German War Weapons Control Act.

The court concluded on Monday that the preliminary evidence described in the indictment could amount to crimes against humanity, as well as slavery and human trafficking.

Ms W, whose full name cannot be revealed for privacy reasons, left Germany in 2014 after converting to Islam, eventually becoming a member of ISIS’s morality police in Mosul and Fallujah.

She and her husband, Taha Sabah Noori Al-J, bought a young Yazidi girl and her mother in 2015 to use as slaves during their time in Mosul, according to prosecutors.

The husband of the accused is thought to have chained the child outside and let her die of thirst in the scorching heat as a punishment for wetting her bed.

The accused did nothing to save the girl. If convicted, the woman could face life in prison.

The first witness in the trial – a chief police investigator who cannot be named for privacy reasons – was heard on Monday. He testified that Ms W’s mother had warned of her daughter’s intention to travel to Syria and Iraq to join the so-called Islamic State before her departure, but that police had been unable to take pre-emptive action in the absence of a crime.

The woman was apprehended by Turkish authorities while pregnant after attempting to renew identity papers to travel back to Germany. She was initially allowed to return to her home in Lower Saxony but was later arrested by German authorities after a sting operation involving the FBI, in which an informant offered to help her return to ISIS territory after her extradition.

During a car journey, she told the informant about the five-year-old’s death.

The girl’s mother, who is represented by international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and German attorneys Natalie von Wistinghausen and Wolfgang Bendler, is one of the key witnesses in the investigation.

Prosecutors will have to establish that the woman is in fact the mother of the deceased girl before her testimony can be taken into account.

Ingrid Haussmann, a spokeswoman at the Munich Higher Regional Court, said the trial is of great significance in Germany as it may set a precedent.

"Returning women with children is a [timely] issue that we have to deal with," Ms Haussmann told The National. "She's the first one and we may need to deal with others [after her]."

Germany and Norway are the two only countries in Europe with “pure” universal jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

According to the Code of Crimes against International Law – a German law that regulates crimes against international law – war crimes are subject to universal jurisdiction. Thus, German courts can punish offenses committed by foreign citizens abroad.

Jennifer W’s lawyers, Ali Aydin and Seda Başay-Yıldız, told the court that their client will not comment on the crimes she has been charged with.

While this is the line often adopted by defendants accused of affiliation with ISIS, Ms Haussmann said many end up breaking their silence as the trial progresses.

The hearings are scheduled to end on September 30, but additional time may be allocated if needed.