France approves of trials in Iraq for French IS fighters
BAGHDAD — France said Monday the Iraqi court that sentenced three French citizens to death for being members of the Islamic State (IS) group has jurisdiction to rule in the case, a statement that came as questions swirl about the legal treatment of thousands of foreign nationals formerly with the extremist group.
IS “terrorists must answer for their crimes in court,” said France’s foreign affair’s ministry spokeswoman, Agnès von der Mühll.
The three, sentenced Sunday, were the first French IS members to receive death sentences in Iraq, where they were transferred for trial from neighboring Syria. Another group of French IS members was expected to be sentenced by the court in Baghdad later Monday.
As Monday’s proceedings opened, the first Frenchman to appear was Mustafa Mohammed Ibrahim, 37, from the Mediterranean city of Nice.
Ibrahim, of Tunisian origin, with short hair and a light beard, walked in the courtroom wearing a yellow uniform with “reforms department” printed on the back in Arabic.
“I ask for forgiveness from the people of Iraq and Syria and the victims,” the man said before the judge ordered he remove his top in order to see if there were any signs of torture on his body. None were visible.
“No matter what the sentence will be against me I want to go back to my country,” said Ibrahim. He added that he used to work as a driver back in France before joining IS.
The second man brought into the courtroom was identified as Fadil Hamad Abdallah, 33, of Moroccan origin.
The French citizens on trial in Iraq are among 12 French IS fighters whom the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces handed over to Iraq in January. The Kurdish-led group spearheads the fight against IS in Syria and has handed over to Iraq hundreds of suspected IS members in recent months.
In Paris, von der Mühll said France’s position is that adults detained in Iraq must be tried by the Iraqi justice system, as soon as it declares itself competent.
“France respects the sovereignty of Iraqi authorities” she added, though she expressed her country’s opposition to the death penalty, “in principle, at all times and in all places.” /kga
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