French 'Mama Jihad' jailed for spurring on son in Syria

French magistrates

A French woman who travelled three times to Syria in support of her jihadist son was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday for being part of a terrorist conspiracy.


Christine Riviere, 51, was sentenced for her "unfailing commitment" to jihad and for helping a number of young women travel to Syria to marry jihadists including her son, Tyler Vilus.

Maximum sentence

It was the maximum sentence possible and included a stipulation that Riviere, a Muslim convert nicknamed "Mama Jihad" in the French press, will be ineligible for parole for seven years.

Vilus, 27, travelled to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State group in 2012 or 2013.

Riviere, who visited her son three times in 2013 and 2014, denied fighting with the Islamic State group, though she posted pictures on Facebook of decapitations and of herself holding a Kalashnikov.

"I didn't want to push him to die a martyr, but that could happen," she said of her son. "Then he would be in heaven, near Allah."

Friday's verdict came barely a week after the conviction and sentencing of another French mother of a jihadist.

Nathalie Haddadi, 43, whose son fought and is thought to have died in Syria, was given a two-year jail sentence for financing terrorism because she wired funds to him.

Haddadi's lawyer Herve Denis said she would appeal the verdict, to avoid it becoming a precedent for the 2,000 French parents whose children had travelled to Syria to wage jihad.

Riviere's 30-year-old son Leroy, in tearful testimony, said he did not think his mother had "killed innocents".

"She left for her son, for love, not to fight," he said.

He described Riviere as a loving mother who dreamed of going on a world cruise with her sons, who were named after characters in the television series "Fame".

A psychiatrist who served as an expert witness at the trial said Riviere had lost her critical and moral judgement and had fantasies about sharing her son's extremism.

'She is completely lost'

Her lawyer Thomas Klotz described a woman who had lost her bearings but had only a rudimentary knowledge of Islam. "She is completely lost, we are in the heart of darkness," he said.

The prosecutor called Riviere a "jihad madam" because she supplied brides to IS soldiers.

Riviere said she converted to Islam in 2012 at her son's behest but would have been drawn to the religion anyway, saying it had "calmed" her.

Riviere, the daughter of funfair workers, was arrested in July 2014 as she was preparing a fourth visit.

Vilus was arrested a year later in Turkey, from where he was extradited to France, where an investigation is pending.

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