A young woman from the municipality of Vilvoorde, just north of Brussels, has been acquitted of terrorism by the Brussels Court of Appeal, which overruled her previous four-year prison sentence for participating in the activities of a terrorist group.
The woman, identified as Noura F., came into contact with Houssien Elouassaki, one of the key members of Sharia4Belgium – a terrorist organisation that called for Belgium to be converted into an Islamic state.
With Elouassaki, Noura F. travelled to Syria at the age of 17. There, she married Ali Houdaifa Ammi, who had also travelled from Vilvoorde to Syria to fight for the Islamic State (IS) and had several children with him. Though the details are not clear, Houdaifa Ammi is believed to have been killed in Syria.
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In 2019, Noura F. fled to Turkey, where she stayed for a year before returning to Belgium in 2020. She had already been sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for participating in the activities of a terrorist group but appealed that sentence.
However, the Brussels correctional court was convinced of her guilt and imposed an effective four-year prison sentence. The judge considered the fact that she had started a family in Syria with Houdaifa as proof that she had actively served IS.
Willing or forced?
Noura F. has always maintained that her life with IS was "one big nightmare" and that she was constantly locked up, abused and raped.
She stressed that in her youth, she had a very difficult domestic situation and psychological problems which brought her to the attention of Belgian police and the justice system at a young age. During that period, she subsequently also fled from a care centre where she was held several times.
In the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, her lawyers stated that she had started to radicalise in search of her identity and eventually travelled to Syria very impulsively, VRT reports. This time, the court accepted her version of events and decided to acquit Noura F.