Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Iraq seeks French compensation for ISIS trials and commuting death sentences

Baghdad is demanding millions of euros for dealing with French members of ISIS, security official says

From top left to bottom right: French citizens Vianney Ouraghi, Salim Machou, Mustapha Merzoughi, Brahim Nejara, Fodil Tahar Aouidate, Kevin Gonot, Yassine Sakkam and Leonard Lopez, all sentenced by a Baghdad court to death for joining ISIS. AFP
From top left to bottom right: French citizens Vianney Ouraghi, Salim Machou, Mustapha Merzoughi, Brahim Nejara, Fodil Tahar Aouidate, Kevin Gonot, Yassine Sakkam and Leonard Lopez, all sentenced by a Baghdad court to death for joining ISIS. AFP

Iraq and France have been negotiating for months on a deal to commute the death sentences of 11 French citizens and a French resident convicted of joining ISIS in exchange for millions of euros, an Iraqi security official told The National.

"There have been diplomatic and security leaks regarding this development that Baghdad has requested €2 million [Dh8.3m] and for France to leave behind its military equipment as a gift to Baghdad," the source said.

Baghdad is dealing with thousands of foreigners and citizens accused of supporting or fighting for the terror group. Many are in detention in Baghdad awaiting trial.

Iraqi law says that those convicted of joining the group should be executed by hanging, even if they did not take up arms.

France has been trying to spare its citizens from execution but is refusing to repatriate the insurgents captured in Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi raised the issue of payment with President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to Paris last month, Le Figaro reported.

The Iraqi government is seeking €1m for each foreign fighter transferred from Syria and sentenced to death, and €2m each for those whose sentences are commuted to life in prison, the paper said.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to The National's request for comment.

Baghdad plans to ask for up to €270m for trying and imprisoning the French citizens.

Western states have been rocked by public debate about whether or not to bring back their citizens who joined the terror group, which held regions of Iraq and Syria for years before losing its last territory in March.

Human rights organisations criticised Iraq’s handling of ISIS trials, accusing the authorities of relying on circumstantial evidence and often extracting confessions under torture.

Human Rights Watch last week accused Iraqi interrogators of "using a range of torture techniques, which would not leave lasting marks on the person's body".

It also condemned France's "outsourcing" of trials for ISIS suspects to "abusive justice systems" and criticised Iraq's "routine failure to credibly investigate torture allegations".

France said that adults detained in Iraq must be tried by the country’s judicial system.

“France respects the sovereignty of Iraqi authorities," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said, although she expressed her country’s opposition to the death penalty, “in principle, at all times and in all places”.

Updated: June 10, 2019 11:49 AM

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