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Returning French jihadists have two options: prison or death

The French authorities said that all the jihadists returning to France will be arrested and brought to justice.
The French authorities said that all the jihadists returning to France will be arrested and brought to justice. Bulent KILIC / AFP

The French authorities said that all the jihadists returning to France will be arrested and brought to justice. Hundreds of them are expected back in France while American troops are preparing to pull out of Syria.

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The French interior minister, Christophe Castaner, said that the French jihadists who are expected to be repatriated are either in Syria or Iraq.

Castaner added that some of the jihadists are currently in prison in Syria and remain there because of the presence of the American troops.

The national, private French BFM-TV announced that 130 French jihadists will be repatriated in the coming weeks to face trial.

They are currently being held in custody by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in prisons across northern Syria.

But the French interior minister didn’t confirm how many French jihadists will be repatriated.

Testimony of a French female jihadist

France 24, RFI’ sister TV channel, broadcast an exclusive interview of Mathilde, a French jihadist from Tours who went to Syria four years ago.

France 24 jihadist interview

Mathilde said French jihadists can choose between leaving and going to prison in France or staying in Syria and dying.

She told France 24 that her husband chose to remain in Syria while she chose France and prison.

Mathilde also told France 24 that she wanted to return to France a long time ago but couldn’t do so because she had neither the money nor the contacts to do so.

She said that life is Syria was not what she expected, quickly adding that she was well treated and never faced any violence.

Mathilde has been tried in absentia and faces a ten year jail sentence.

France changes its tune

Until now, France has been adamant that it will not accept the repatriation of French jihadists fightin alongside, or with links to, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil)

They maintained that the French jihadists captured on the battlefields of Syria or Iraq will have to face trial by the local authorities and not in France.

President Donald Trump’s announcement, last December, of an American withdrawal from Syria changed everything.

Only the US, Russia, Lebanon, Sudan and Indonesia have so far agreed to repatriate their jihadist nationals.

The thousands of ISIS combatants held in SDF prisons are a burden for the Kurdish authorities who are asking foreign countries to repatriate their nationals.

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