Israel Sentences Female Israeli Arab to 22-month Jail Term for Supporting ISIS

Judge shows lenience toward remorseful mother of five from Shfaram, who was convicted of leaving country illegally and of contact with a foreign agent.

Iman Kanju, who was sentenced to 22 months in prison for contact with an enemy agent and illegally leaving Israel, in a Haifa courtroom, September 2015.
Rami Shllush

The Haifa Magistrate's Court has sentenced Shfaram resident Iman Kanju, who admitted to contacting a foreign agent with the intention of illegally emigrating after identifying with Islamic State, to 22 months in prison. The court also handed down a 12-month suspended sentence to Kanju, who pled guilty and was convicted in a plea bargain (before evidence was even heard), and a fine of NIS 30,000 (about $7,800).

According to the indictment filed against her last September Kanju, 45 – a doctoral student in Islamic studies, who is married to an imam in their Arab village in northern Israel and has five children – evinced interest in Islamic State, also called ISIS, and identified with its ideology and activities.

A few months before she planned to leave Israel she contacted a person on Facebook named Abu Ali Ashemami, who described himself as having connections to the violent Islamist organization in Syria. Kanju told Abu Ali that she would be able to teach religion and sharia law to ISIS activists and fighters in Syria.

The indictment states that she took the money to pay for the journey to Syria from her father, and with him flew to Turkey last August with the aim of entering Syria. She informed Abu Ali about the dates of their flights and he told her how to purchase a Turkish SIM card and send him her contact details.

In Turkey, in accordance with the agreement with Abu Ali, the father and daughter proceeded to Antalya and from there to Adana, where the father, Ahmed, decided to return to Israel.

But some 10 days after she had arrived in Turkey, local authorities apprehended Kanju, as she attempted to cross in Syria, and deported her to Israel. Upon landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport she was arrested by the police and Shin Bet security service agents.

She was ultimately convicted of leaving the country illegally and of maintaining contact with a foreign agent.

In her ruling, Haifa Judge Thamar Sharon Nethanel wrote that the accused had already been detained for months and took a lenient view of the fact that Kanju had confessed and expressed remorse.

“It is heartbreaking to see the small children whose mother is not with them, through no fault of their own and when they are without a doubt missing her and feeling her absence every single day and hour," Nethanel wrote.

"There is no doubt," she added, "that the life of the entire family changed for the worse from the moment the accused left Israel, in the circumstances described, and there is no doubt that the suffering of the entire family, especially her husband and children, is very great.”