Two Russian women jailed for aiding ISIS group

AFP , Tuesday 29 Dec 2015

A Moscow court has jailed two young women for more than five years on charges of aiding Islamic State militants, with one of them found guilty of transferring some $600 to an ISIS bank account.

Yelena Arshakhanova and Saida Khalikova, medical students in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan, were respectively sentenced to five years, three months and five years, six months behind bars, court spokeswoman Irina Zhirnova told AFP on Tuesday.

"They were accused of transferring funds to terrorists," Zhirnova said, adding that the court had reached its verdict on Monday.

The women allegedly sold household items and homemade soap to raise funds that they would then transfer to the accounts of ISIS fighters.

Both women pleaded guilty, Zhirnova said.

Khalikova -- who had been held awaiting trial from December 2014 -- is accused of transferring 43,000 rubles ($594, 544 euros) to an ISIS-linked bank account, according to the opposition Open Russia group.

But the 24-year-old's lawyer, Sabir Agayev, said his client had transferred the funds for a friend without being aware of their final destination, Open Russia reported.

Khalikova's mother, Raziyat Isabekova, wrote in a letter to President Vladimir Putin that her daughter had confessed under duress.

"They forced her to sign a confession for something she did not do," she wrote in the letter, published by the Open Russia.

According to FSB figures released earlier this month, nearly 2,900 Russians are fighting or have fought with ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

On September 30, Russia launched a bombing campaign in Syria at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's long-time ally, which it says is aimed against ISIS and other extremist groups.

The West has accused Russia of targeting moderate opposition groups and propping up Assad's regime.

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