Christine Rivière, 51, has said she wanted to spend time with her jihadist son in case he met an early death
Thomas Klotz, the lawyer for Christine Riviére, talks to journalists as he arrives for her trial in Paris.
A radicalised French woman who followed her son to Syria, where he was fighting for Islamic State, went on trial in Paris on Thursday and could face 10 years in jail if convicted.
Christine Rivière, 51, nicknamed “Jihadi Granny” by investigators, has said she wanted to support her son and spend time with him in case he met an early death. She is charged with criminal conspiracy with a view to preparing terrorist acts..
Rivière, from Troyes in eastern France, is the oldest of around 30 women being held on suspicion of links to terrorism over journeys they made between France and Syria. Whereas most of the women are young, Rivière’s case stood out for her radicalisation alongside her son.
Rivière grew up in a family that travelled France working on fairgrounds. At 16 she began a job in a factory, and later she had two sons whom she raised alone. Her youngest son, Tylor Vilus, converted to Islam in 2011, aged 21, and became radicalised, moving to Tunisia to engage with jihadist groups there. Rivière followed him to Tunisia, also converted and adhered to her son’s radicalised views.
Vilus left for Syria in 2013 with his mother’s support and encouragement and she sent him money. When he told her – in messages later seized by investigators – that he was moving up the ranks of Islamic State, she is said to have replied: “I knew you’d do well, you’re made for that.” She allegedly tried to put him in touch with potential brides, women interested in joining Islamic State.
Rivière was arrested in July 2014 when she was allegedly preparing to move permanently to Syria after three previous visits to her son in Isis-held areas in 2013 and 2014. She told judges she felt good in Syria and preferred living there to France, “despite the bombings and shootings”, according to court papers published in Le Monde.
Rivière reportedly told investigators: “I wanted to make the most of [time with] my son before he dies … I know that will happen, of course, and if it does I’ll be happy for him because I know what that means for him. I know he will have a place in paradise … I want what he wants, like every good mother.”
Rivière has denied she financially supported Islamic State, telling investigators it was “normal” that she sent her son money. She also denied personally fighting for Islamic State. Questioned about pictures showing her heavily armed in Syria, she said she carried a weapon there “like everybody else”. Violent propaganda images were found on her computer, court papers state.
Vilus was arrested in July 2015 in Turkey, travelling on a Swedish passport, and is in prison in France awaiting trial. An investigation is ongoing into his role in Islamic State. Rivière’s trial is expected to last for two days.