Copenhagen- A Danish woman who fought for the Kurds in Iraq and Syria against ISIS militants has been taken into custody in Copenhagen, prompting accusations of hypocrisy over her treatment compared with returning ISIS militants.
Joanna Palani, 23, who fought with both the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq and the YPG militia in Syria, faces a potential jail sentence.
A 12-month travel ban was imposed on her to prevent her from travelling back to the conflict in September 2015. She has a hearing session on Tuesday.
Her lawyer, Erbil Kaya, noted the irony of seeking to prosecute someone who fought on the same side as Danish troops and other coalition forces while the government seeks to rehabilitate returning ISIS militants.
“It’s a shame. We are the first country in the world to punish a person who has been fighting on the same side as the international coalition. It’s hypocritical to punish her. Why don’t we punish the people who fight for ISIS instead of people who are fighting on the same side as Denmark? … I don’t think it makes sense,” Kaya said.
Palani is the first foreign fighter to be jailed under new passport laws and is currently being held in Denmark’s largest prison, Vestre Fængsel in Copenhagen.
The judge agreed to a prosecution request for more time to prepare their case, Kaya said.
Time spent in pre-trial detention will be taken off her final sentence, which could be as long as two years, according to Kaya, who is forbidden from reporting the details of the case.
Palani, who has been outspoken in her support for the Kurdish groups she has fought for, is believed to be one of 11 Danes to have restrictions imposed upon them.
Palani is the daughter of Iranian Kurds and was born in a refugee camp in Ramadi, Iraq, in 1993.
The family immigrated to Denmark when she was three and she was a student when the Syrian conflict first began.
She went to Kurdistan, she says, “to fight for women’s rights, for democracy – for the European values I learned as a Danish girl.”
The Danish security and intelligence service (PET) is reported to have estimated that at least 125 Danes have joined the Syrian conflict, mainly to fight for Isis.
Of these, around 62 are believed to have returned to Denmark, which leaves the country with one of the highest rates of returnees in Europe.