Russian woman convicted of trying to join ISIL

Special to WorldTribune.com

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A Russian court has found a former Moscow State University student guilty of trying to join the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and sentenced her to 4 1/2 years in prison.

Moscow State University student Aleksandra Ivanova (aka Varvara Karaulova) at a court hearing in Moscow on Dec. 22.
Moscow State University student Aleksandra Ivanova (aka Varvara Karaulova) at a court hearing in Moscow on Dec. 22.

The Moscow Regional Military court convicted Aleksandra Ivanova — better known publicly by her former name, Varvara Karaulova — on Dec. 22 and issued the sentence the same day.

Authorities say Ivanova, now 20, was detained in Turkey in June 2015 while trying to cross into Syria.

Her lawyers contend that she never planned to join ISIL and was manipulated by an ISIL recruiter.

A substantial number of Russians from Muslim ethnic minorities are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside militant groups including ISIL.

Ivanova’s case attracted attention in part because she was a student at a prestigious Moscow university and come from a non-Muslim family.

Ivanova legally changed her name last year while in custody.

Her trial started in October.

Islamic State is banned in Russia, where it is designated as a terrorist organization.

Russia says it is combating ISIL militants in a campaign of air strikes it launched in Syria in September 2015, but Western governments say the Russian bombardments have mainly targeted rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

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