By Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – An Iraqi court sentenced two men, a French citizen and a Tunisian, to death on Wednesday after finding them guilty of joining Islamic State, a prosecutor told Reuters.
The latest ruling brings the total number of French citizens facing the death penalty to seven, with another five French men due to stand trial next week on the same charges, and when they will likely face the same fate, he said.
“They all worked in the same terror group, the same evidence that was enough to convict the others is there to warrant the death penalty, but it is up to the judge,” said the prosecutor, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday that France was intensifying diplomatic efforts to prevent six of its citizens being executed in Iraq after they were sentenced to death for belonging to Islamic State.
Iraq is conducting trials of thousands of suspected Islamic State fighters, including hundreds of foreigners, with many arrested as the group’s strongholds crumbled throughout Iraq.
The French government has refused to take back Islamic State fighters and their wives, although a handful of children have been repatriated. It has called the adults “enemies” of the nation, saying they should face justice either in Syria or Iraq.
With no recognised legal system in the Kurdish Syrian areas, Western countries have not opposed the transfer of some jihadists from the region to Iraq to face justice. More than a dozen French jihadists have already been transferred.
The men sentenced this week were extradited to Iraq in February and military sources at the time said that 14 French citizens were among 280 Iraqi and foreign detainees handed over by the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)