Iraq begins terror trial proceedings for nearly 900 suspected ISIS jihadis caught fleeing Syria in the final days of the self-proclaimed caliphate
- US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces caught the 900 trying to cross into Syria
- They are now being tried in Iraqi courts for being suspected members of ISIS
- Among those awaiting trial are 12 French nationals accused of being in ISIS
Published: 09:27 EDT, 14 April 2019 | Updated: 12:47 EDT, 14 April 2019
Iraq has begun trial proceedings for nearly 900 Iraqi suspected members of the Islamic State group caught fleeing jihadist territory in neighbouring Syria, a judicial source said on Sunday.
They were handed over to Iraqi authorities by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which ousted ISIS from swathes of eastern Syria including territory bordering Iraq.
‘We received the interrogation files of nearly 900 Iraqi ISIS members coming from Syria,’ the court official said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorised to talk to the media.
Around 900 suspected members of ISIS were arrested by authorities while trying to cross into Syria (file photo)
‘The specialised terrorism court has begun setting dates for their trial in batches,’ the source added.
The nearly 900 suspected jihadists were transferred by the SDF to Iraqi custody in recent months as the remnants of IS’ once sprawling self-declared ‘caliphate’ collapsed in neighbouring Syria.
Additional Iraqi suspects are in SDF custody and awaiting transferral, a security source said Sunday.
‘They will be handed over in batches on the Syrian-Iraqi border. They include very influential leaders, but ISIS had sought to keep them hidden,’ the security source said.
One of those destined to be handed over was deeply involved in IS’ efforts to develop chemical weapons, he said.
Iraq has already tried thousands of its own nationals arrested on home soil for joining ISIS – including women – and has sentenced hundreds to death.
The country remains in the top five ‘executioner’ nations in the world, according to an Amnesty International report released last week.
The number of death sentences issued by Iraqi courts more than quadrupled from 65 in 2017 to at least 271 in 2018.
Hundreds of the suspects will be put on trial in Baghdad over the coming weeks to determine whether they were ISIS members (file photo)
But fewer were actually carried out, according to Amnesty, with 52 executions in 2018 compared to 125 in 2017.
In addition to locals, Iraq has also tried hundreds of foreigners, condemning many to life in prison and others to death, although no foreign ISIS members have yet been executed.
Among those awaiting trial in Baghdad are 12 accused French IS members, who were caught in Syria and transferred to Iraqi custody in February.
Baghdad has offered to try all foreign fighters in SDF custody – estimated at around 1,000 – in exchange for millions of dollars, Iraqi government sources have told AFP.
Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have criticised these trials, which they say often rely on circumstantial evidence or confessions obtained under torture.