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Nation & World

Woman linked to Algerian jihadist gets 8 years

PHILADELPHIA — A woman who took her 6-year-old son from Colorado to live and train with a purported Islamic jihadist was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday.

Jamie Paulin Ramirez, 35, told a federal judge in Philadelphia that she knew a week after arriving in Ireland to marry the man in 2009 that she had made a horrible mistake. She only hoped her child could forget the time they spent there, she said.

But prosecutors showed disturbing video of the boy — dressed in a traditional Middle Eastern headdress and long robes — vowing to shoot nonbelievers, under questioning from his mother.

“I don’t want my son to think like that,” Ramirez said Wednesday. “I don’t think like that. I’m not a hateful person.”

In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker acknowledged Ramirez’s cooperation with the government in helping to secure an indictment against Ali Charaf Damache, the Algerian native who Ramirez married during her four months in Ireland.

But the judge said she could not get past the fact that Ramirez, a college educated nursing student, involved her son in her extremist beliefs.

“That your son participated in activities with Ali, and you participated in activities with him to indoctrinate him into terrorism is unforgivable,” Tucker said. “I hope that your son is not permanently scarred by what happened in Ireland.”

Ramirez is the second terrorism suspect with ties to Damache to be sentenced to be sentenced in a Philadelphia federal court this week.

On Monday, Tucker sentenced Colleen LaRose, a former Philadelphia area resident better known by her screen name “Jihad Jane,” 10 years in prison for her role in plotting the assassination of a Swedish artist who offended some Muslims.

Damache was arrested in Waterford, Ireland in 2010 but remains there fighting extradition to the United States.

During Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutors maintained Ramirez rashly converted to an extreme form of Islam in 2009 and decided to pack up her life to join Damache in an attempt to hurt her mother, with whom she was fighting at the time.

She married the man, who she had never before seen in person, and began living with the alleged jihadist.

During that period, Damache would pinch and hit Ramirez’s son and often took him to a nearby park for grueling physical training that left the child in tears, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier-Williams said.

“Ms. LaRose recruited consenting adults,” she said. “Ms. Ramirez recruited a 6-year-old boy. He had no idea, no choice. His mom brought him to join a terrorist cell.”

Jeremy H.G. Ibrahim, Ramirez’s lawyer, urged the judge to consider that his client had followed a path blazed by many naive converts to Islam, who lacking a proper support system, find themselves seduced by violent, extremist elements within the religion.

Like LaRose, he said, Ramirez had endured a difficult early life marked by abuse and neglect.

“It is no longer part of her persona,” he said. “That part of her life is over and done with.”

Because she has remained in custody since her arrest in 2010, Ramirez could be eligible for release in as many as five years.

In addition to her prison sentence, she was ordered to submit to three years court supervision upon her release and to pay a $2,500 fine.

Her son remains in the custody of her mother in Colorado, attorneys said Wednesday.

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