Colleen R. LaRose, a Pennsylvania housewife who called herself “Jihad Jane” in online postings, was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for participating in a failed Al Qaeda-linked plot to murder a Swedish artist who drew a cartoon of the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
LaRose, a 50-year-old convert to Islam, pled guilty to following the orders of alleged Al Qaeda members in 2009 and she cooperated with judicial authorities by providing information about other possible attacks, a move that enabled her to avoid a life sentence.
The alleged terrorist conspiracy was launched in June 2008 when LaRose posted a comment on YouTube under the name of “Jihad Jane” in which she said she was “desperate to do something somehow to help” Muslims.
In early 2009, LaRose was in contact with other conspirators from Southeast Asia and Europe to whom she expressed her desire to become a martyr for the Islamic cause.
One of those conspirators told her in March 2009 that she must travel to Sweden to help accomplish the murder of cartoonist Lars Vilks.
Defence attorney Mark Wilson said that the plan to kill Vilks was “more aspirational than operational” and that LaRose had never fired a weapon.
Wilson presented his client during the trial as a single, vulnerable woman who was easily manipulated, and he alleged that her behaviour could be due to the profound psychological traumas she suffered in childhood.
LaRose’s biological father raped her repeatedly starting when she was only seven. The abuse continued until she ran away at the age of 13, according to her attorney.
In Monday’s hearing, LaRose apologised for blindly following the instructions of the jihadists, explaining that she had been “in a trance”.
An Iraqi group linked to Al Qaeda put a price on Vilks’ head and offered $100,000 to whoever would kill the man who drew a cartoon of the prophet for the Swedish daily Nerikes Allehanda, placing his head on the body of a dog.
The cartoon sparked demonstrations in front of Swedish embassies around the world.