Did a young woman from Lower Saxony in Iraq stand by and watch a Yazidi slave girl chained to death in the midday sun? The trial against Jennifer W. has been going on at the Munich Higher Regional Court for more than two years. Now the process is drawing to a close. The alleged supporter of the so-called Islamic State (IS) faces a long prison sentence.
Today the Federal Prosecutor wants to plead. But it cannot be ruled out that the defense attorneys will file further motions and the proceedings will be further delayed. A process with many stories and encounters, for example with Marianne, who has returned to ISIS (Name changed), that Jennifer W. knew well.
Because of statements in IS processes: “Thrown off the rails”
Testimony has always been a psychological burden on Marianne. She doesn’t want to be constantly reminded of her time with the IS terrorist group. “If you are unlucky, you are really traumatized for your whole life for years,” she says in one of several interviews that Bayerischer Rundfunk conducted with her.
Marianne was with IS for almost a year until November 2015. She regrets and says that going to the terrorist group was one of the biggest mistakes of her life. Sometimes investigators still turn up at Marianne’s house when they need the early 50-year-old as a witness again. There were moments when she hesitated and wondered whether she would really expose herself to the stress and drive again for hours through Germany to testify in front of a court: “After that I was completely thrown off the rails, I feel the strain all over my body . ”
More than two years ago, Marianne appeared before the Higher Regional Court in Munich in the proceedings against Jennifer W. “Jennifer was such a lovely person. I can’t imagine that she had anything to do with the killing of the Yezidi girl,” says Marianne.
Jennifer W. case burdens Salafist-jihadist scene
When the process started in April 2019, the end was hardly in sight. But it was clear that this was not just any state security procedure. The alleged death of the five-year-old Yezidi slave girl and the arrest of the IS returnees have put a strain on the Salafist jihadist scene. There are members of the scene who, because of their close contacts with Jennifer W., have come increasingly into the focus of the security authorities.
Prisoner helper for IS members
After her return from the IS terrorist militia in autumn 2015, Jennifer W. was active as a so-called Salafist prison helper – the group of people who publicly show solidarity with terror suspects in German prisons and collect money for their relatives. Sometimes there are also fundraising campaigns for IS women in Kurdish camp detention in northern Syria.
Jennifer W. was considered a very committed prison helper in the scene, confirms Bernhard Falk, and according to constitutional protection officials she is part of the Salafist-jihadist scene. Falk, who is considered a lone fighter, arranges lawyers for alleged terrorist supporters. He indicates that the allegations against Jennifer W. are discussed controversially in the scene. “It is well known that I have sympathy for those who have gone to Syria or Iraq. But of course that is not a free ticket for the establishment of new conditions of oppression when fighting against Assad. It cannot be denied that The most serious crimes were committed against the Yazidis. So that cannot be justified, “says Falk.
In July 2018, Jennifer W.’s life changed completely: She was sitting in a V-person’s car when she wanted to return to IS. Jennifer W. thought the V-Person was a friend, a helper. Unsuspecting, she made her IS confession in the bugged car. She was finally arrested at a motorway service station in Neu-Ulm. Actually, Jennifer W. comes from Lohne in Lower Saxony. Because the arrest took place in Bavaria, the trial takes place in Munich.
Jennifer W., the Yazidis and a prominent co-plaintiff
Jennifer W. was silent for almost two years. Only in the spring did she have her lawyer, Seda Basay-Yildiz, read out a statement. For process observers, this step came very late and therefore seems implausible.
The trial against Jennifer W. made headlines, also because an extremely prominent lawyer initially played a central role: the human rights expert and wife of actor George Clooney, Amal Clooney, who represents the co-plaintiff and mother of the girl who was killed, but never in court in Munich appeared. Before the trial, she issued a joint statement from the secondary prosecution and the Yazidi organization Yazda: “Yazidi victims have been waiting far too long for their opportunity to testify in court.”
Jennifer W. was married during her time with the terrorist group. Her husband at the time, the Iraqi Taha Al-J., Has been standing trial before the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court since April last year. He is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, among other things. The couple lived in a house in Fallujah, Iraq.
The federal prosecutor says Jennifer W. and her husband kept the Yazidi girl and her mother as slaves. The five-year-old is said to have died in the courtyard of the house in Fallujah in 2015 – tied up in the burning heat. The man is said to have tied her up and Jennifer W. watched it passively.
IS returnees: I wanted to help the girl
The girl’s hands were tied at the front of the wrists, said Jennifer W. in her admission. “Of course I wanted to help her on the spot, but I didn’t know how.” She noticed that it was getting hotter and the sun was getting stronger.
That’s why she tried to get her husband to bring the child back into the house. But he had become aggressive and said it was none of her business. The child should have learned to “hear”. Again and again she asked him to let the girl in again.
Only when the little one collapsed did he run to her and untie her. Because she remained lifeless, he ran out of her house and drove to a hospital. When he returned, her husband did not say that the girl had died.
The tears of Jennifer W. and the brutal husband
Until she was admitted, Jennifer W. looked hypothermic. Trial observers felt that she did not want to let the events get too close to her. But then she burst into tears when she answered the Senate’s inquiries when the Senate wanted to know whether Jennifer W. could have intervened despite her husband. “Never at this point,” replied the defendant. “Today I wouldn’t care if he hit or killed me. But then I only had him.”
The case of Jennifer W. – that is also the story of an oppressed woman in IS. Jennifer W. described that her husband was very violent and also hit the Yazidi child if he made mistakes while praying.
Processes in Frankfurt and Munich at a glance
The defendants’ defense attorneys have an eye on the trial in Munich, but also on the trial against the former husband in Frankfurt. Jennifer W. is represented by Seda Basay-Yildiz and Ali Aydin. The lawyers went very far in the process. So far that they have since been investigated. In one of their requests for evidence before the Munich Higher Regional Court, they quoted from a non-public Islamism trial at the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court, in which they were also active as public defenders. The case against the lawyers was finally closed against payment of a fee.
Martin Heising and Serkan Alkan are the defenders of the defendant’s ex-partner. According to the lawyer Alkan, it is unclear what really happened to the Yazidi child. “There is a statement from the girl’s mother that the child was taken to the hospital. And there is now probably a witness from Iraq who can confirm that the child was released from the hospital again – and alive “says Alkan the BR. The rest of the process will show whether this version still influences the proceedings in Munich.
The mother of the slave girl
The mother of the Yazidi child testified in Munich for several days of trial. The mother was the most important witness in the trial against the IS returnees. But their interrogation turned out to be difficult, lengthy and always very contradictory. The two defense attorneys emphasized again and again that it had not been proven that she was really the mother of a dead girl and that she actually lived with Jennifer W. and her IS husband. It was Jennifer W. herself who dispelled these doubts and finally admitted in court that she knew the woman.
Jennifer W. is now the mother of a child who was born in Germany. The former partner accused in Frankfurt is the father. Recently, the court asked Jennifer W. how she envisioned her future. The defendant replied: “That I can study something that can do something useful. I want to be with my daughter – no matter where.” Her daughter, according to Jennifer W., lives with her grandmother and is not brought up religiously.