BAGHDAD, May 26, (AP): A Baghdad court on Sunday sentenced three French citizens to death for being members of the Islamic State group, an Iraqi judicial official said. They were the first French IS members to receive death sentences in Iraq, where they were transferred for trial from neighboring Syria. The verdict raised new questions about the legal treatment of thousands of foreign nationals formerly with the extremist group.
Many now languish in prisons in Iraq or detention camps in northern Syria. Their home countries hesitate to take back citizens they see as having gone willingly to join the militant group. The official said the three were among 12 French citizens whom the US-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. The convicted French militants can appeal the sentences within a month, according to the official, who official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. Iraqi President Barham Saleh had said during a February visit to Paris that the 12 will be prosecuted in accordance with Iraqi laws.
In March, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi asserted Iraq’s authority to try foreign IS suspects detained in Syria because “the battlefields were one.” The trials of the French nationals in Baghdad raise the difficult question of whether foreign IS suspects should be tried and punished in the country of their alleged crimes, even when there are serious doubts about the impartiality of the courts in Iraq and Syria.