Dutch woman, rescued from ISIS, arrested

2014-11-22 08:25

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Maastricht - A blonde, blue-eyed Dutch 19-year-old who was rescued by her mother after marrying an Islamic State fighter in Syria, was ordered Friday to be detained pending possible terror charges.

A convert to Islam who travelled to Syria in February to marry an ISIS fighter she saw as a Robin Hood figure, Aicha was arrested after landing back in the Netherlands with her mother Monique on Wednesday.

The court in her southern home town of Maastricht on Friday ordered her continued detention on suspicion of "crimes threatening state security".

"Today the examining judge has reviewed the custody order of Aicha and concluded that it was lawful," court spokesperson Marc Bax told journalists after the hearing.

Another hearing on Tuesday will decide if the young woman, known as Sterlina before she adopted an Arab name, should be held for another 14 days and possibly charged.

Public prosecutor Martina Bijker said that if Aicha were found to have fought alongside ISIS she could face up to 30 years in prison.

Terrorist activities

"Aicha is accused of joining a criminal organisation in Syria with the intent of joining criminals with terrorist activities," Bijker said.

"We are still not sure what happened and what the charge will ultimately be or if there will be a charge," said Bijker.

As is routine in the preliminary stage of Dutch prosecutions, Aicha's family name was not made public.

European nations are increasingly concerned about returning jihadist fighters, but the question of what to do with women who travel to Iraq and Syria but do not fight is a thorny one.

The authorities have barred Monique and Aicha's lawyers from talking to the press because of the sensitivity of the case.

But Monique, 49, has previously spoken at length to Dutch media about her daughter, who "liked going out, playing the piano and listening to music".

She told Dutch television that her daughter first came home with the Bible, and then with the Qur'an. She converted to Islam and began wearing a face-covering niqab.

Robin Hood figure

The turning point came when Aicha saw an interview on Dutch television with a Dutch-Turkish jihadist fighter, Omar Yilmaz.

Yilmaz, a former soldier in the Dutch army who also did national service in Turkey, is one of a group of Dutch jihadists who have travelled to Syria where he is training fighters for the ISIS group.

"Look at that man, it's so good what he's doing," Aicha allegedly told her mother, who said she saw him as a Robin Hood figure.

Dutch authorities confiscated Aicha's passport to prevent her travelling to Syria following warnings from a friend. But she managed to travel with a simple identity card - which is obligatory in the Netherlands.

In the interview with Dutch television, Yilmaz, a handsome, wiry man with shaved head and a beard, explained how he had come to train ISIS recruits to shoot.

"If Dutch forces would send a unit or fighters to Syria to help the people, I would be the first to sign up for the Dutch army. But nobody is doing anything," he said.

Failed marriage

Aicha turned to her mother for help after her marriage to Yilmaz failed and she ended up with a Tunisian fighter, the Dutch tabloid daily Algemeen Dagblad said.

The paper reported that a niqab-wearing Monique crossed the border into Syria and travelled to the ISIS stronghold city of Raqa, but the Dutch prosecutor's office said they had met at the Turkish-Syrian border.

Roger Bos of the public prosecutor's office in southern city Maastricht, told local television channel L1 that Aicha needed support.

"Is she a victim or a suspect? Maybe she's both," he said.

Prosecutor Bijker said investigators needed to know more about what Aicha had done in Syria.

"We are very worried about young people going to Syria and we would like to know why they do it, how they act and especially in this case we want to know more about what happened to this girl," she said.

"Maybe some other people will say 'OK, we shouldn't do it'."

Around 130 Dutch jihadists have left to fight in Syria, with 30 already having returned and 14 others killed in the fighting, according to the country's latest intelligence statistics.

Read more on:    isis  |  syria

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