Janet Zouabi

June 2021, Janet Zouabi, a 35-year-old woman of Tunisian origin, was sentenced by the Court of Assizes in Rome to five years and three months in prison for association with the purpose of international terrorism, training and incitement to commit terrorist offences.

A lonely and apparently anonymous life that of Janet Zouabi, who since 2018 had settled in Latina and lived with a residence permit and a regular rental contract, in a flat at the Palazzo di Vetro, in Viale Nervi. An area that hides borderline lives, drug dealing, prostitution, in a building that hosts citizens of mostly foreign nationality. The woman’s name was not even on the intercom, which was also broken.

Nevertheless, the woman was able to contribute to the cause of the holy war through the media right from her flat. Zouabi was indeed stopped by the Special Branch of the Italian State Police based in Latina on 17 December 2020, after a report by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation of a Telegram profile active in ISIL propaganda. The woman was also tightened up by telephone interceptions carried out by the specialised counter-terrorism team of the Italian State Police. Investigations revealed that Zouabi has been married to a young Tunisian with Austrian citizenship, Elmesiry Omar, who was found to have numerous contacts with El Ghayesh Ibrahim Abdellatif, a well-known subject implicated in the ‘Mosaic’ counter-terrorism investigation in 2018 and former imam of the Latina mosque.

On 18 December 2020, the Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered a house search against Zouabi, during which information and telephone devices were seized. In detail, several items were found in Zouabi’s flat, leading to the validation of the arrest by the ordinary court of Rome. In particular, videos and messages (more than 500) were found on the social profiles of Istagram, Whatsapp and Telegram, inciting to commit terrorist acts by glorifying jihad and advocating martyrdom and the indiscriminate use of violence as necessary, providing instructions on the use of explosive material, firearms and other weapons, harmful or dangerous bacteriological chemicals, such as ricin. A real tutoring activity. She herself declared that she ‘wanted to sow terror around the world’.

Zouabi seems to have been inspired by the figure of Abdul Razzaq AL Mahdi, the Syrian extremist who calls on Muslims to carry out attacks in revenge for the Russian bombings in Syria. In addition, from her Instagram profile, where the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem appears as her profile photo, one can read an invitation to join the martyrdom at the Bahari Institute, where to enter one must be at least 16 years old and know at least 5 verses of the Koran.

On 18 September 2020, having established her dangerous nature, Janet Zouabi was arrested and interrogated. The woman tried to substantiate the claim that others had taken over her identity, Janet Zouabi, and thus her telephone equipment, and that the data gathered from the technical analysis could not be traced back to her. In another part of the interrogation, the woman provided information on Janet Qalb Al-Asad (Om Amar), showing that she was well acquainted with the underlying dynamics of the Islamic State’s terrorist projects.

The evidence against Zouabi was therefore compelling, so in June 2021 the ordinary court in Rome ordered her to be detained in prison for five years and three months for association with the purpose of international terrorism, training and incitement to commit terrorist offences. Finally, in January 2023, the Court of Appeal of Rome reduced the sentence to 3 years and 6 months.