Fates vary of foreign terrorists arrested in Iraq and Syria

Melina Boughedir, 27, was arrested last summer in Mosul with her four children, three of whom have been repatriated to France. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2018
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Fates vary of foreign terrorists arrested in Iraq and Syria

QAMISHLI, Syria: Iraq and Syria’s Kurds have netted foreign terrorists by the thousands but while the former is expediting trials, the latter would rather send them home.
A Baghdad court on Monday sentenced Frenchwoman Melina Boughedir to seven months in prison, a term she had already served by the time she was tried.
The authorities only found her guilty of entering Iraq illegally and she will soon be able to return to France, a country which was one of the Daesh group’s main suppliers of foreign fighters.
The 27-year-old is one among the thousands of foreigners suspected of having fought for or supported terrorist groups, more or less directly, over the past years.
Iraq, which has detained at least 560 women, as well as 600 children identified as terrorist or relatives of suspected Daesh fighters, is wasting no time in putting them on trial.
In January, a court sentenced a German woman to death on charges of providing logistical support to Daesh and on Sunday a Turkish woman was also handed the death penalty.
France so far has ignored appeals by families and lawyers advocating repatriations and said it supported the idea of its nationals detained in Iraq and Syria being tried there.
Paris has said it would only intervene if death penalties were handed down. Iraq is one of the countries in the world that carries out the most executions.
Most countries, especially in Europe where a string of deadly attacks has had a major impact on public opinion, do not want to see those detained nationals return on their soil.
There appears to be little ambivalence in Iraq over the fate of the foreign fighters and their families.
“These people have killed, put women into slavery... They have committed war crimes on Iraqi soil, and Iraqi law prevails,” said the main spokesman of Iraq’s judiciary, Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar.
Across the border, the Syrian Kurds have more misgivings.
“We have arrested thousands of foreign jihadists and we still capture some every day,” Redur Khalil, a senior spokesman, told AFP in the Kurdish region of Syria.
Khalil is an official in the People’s Protection Units, a group which formed the backbone of an outfit that was the US-led coalition’s main ground partner in the fight against Daesh in Syria.
“We want foreign jihadists to be tried in their home countries,” he said.
The Kurdish forces have more immediate priorities, such as fending off a Turkish military offensive on the enclave of Afrin.
The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria is self-proclaimed, which leaves many legal question marks hanging over its dealing with foreign states over such an issue.
The semi-autonomous region is led by a de facto government and elections are due for its Parliament but its fledgling institutions are not recognized internationally.
“According to which law can we sentence them?” Khalil asked, adding: “We don’t have big prisons.”
Abdul Karim Omar, a senior official in one of the three cantons of the autonomous Kurdish territory, said a bilateral deal had been reached with Indonesia and Russia, calling for others to follow suit.
“We wish to deliver these prisoners to their countries,” he told AFP.
But after being held up as the heroes of the war against Daesh, Syria’s Kurds face the risk of isolation on the international scene and appear ready to accommodate some of the states least willing to take back their terrorists.
“If it’s not possible to deliver them, we will put them into court here,” Omar said.


Sentences in Syrian Kurdish courts go up to 20 years in jail for terrorism-related charges but can be reduced.
The families of and lawyers of some of the detained foreign terrorists have voiced concern that these foreign detainees will turn into bargaining chips in geopolitical horse-trading.
“The Kurds are perfectly aware that these foreign detainees are a key card in their hand,” said Martin Pradel, a lawyer for several French nationals held in Syria.


Egypt races to reduce impact of $5 billion Ethiopian dam

Updated 48 min 13 sec ago
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Egypt races to reduce impact of $5 billion Ethiopian dam

  • Research group warns of ‘dire humanitarian consequences’ over disputed Al-Nahda project
  • Ethiopia plans to store 74 billion cubic meters of Nile water behind the dam

CAIRO: An international research group has warned of “dire humanitarian consequences” if a controversial Ethiopian project to dam the Nile leads to conflict with Egypt and neighboring Sudan.

The $5 billion dam is a source of friction between the three countries that could spill over into open hostility, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report.

Egypt and Sudan fear the dam, now being built near the Sudanese border, could reduce available water to both countries.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or Al-Nahda dam, has been under construction since 2011 and is due to be completed in 2022. When finished it will be the largest dam in Africa, generating about 6,000 megawatts of electricity for domestic use and export.

Dr. Abbas Al-Sharaki, a water resources expert at the Institute of African Studies at Cairo University, told Arab News that Egypt is likely to face a water crisis in the future because of the dam.

Planned negotiations on the dam between the leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia are unlikely to succeed, he said. 

Ethiopia plans to store 74 billion cubic meters of Nile water behind the dam, which would affect the 55.5 billion cubic meters of water that Egypt currently gets from the Nile. Ethiopia’s leaders insist the dam will also benefit all three countries.

Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the former Egyptian minister of irrigation, said that the impact of the Ethiopian dam on the Egyptian water quota is inevitable, but Egypt is looking to reduce its effects and delay it as long as possible until other resources are raised.

Dr. Hisham Bakhit, professor of water resources at Cairo University, said that Egypt is conducting large-scale research to reduce the impact of the dam.

Egypt has many sustainable solutions to manage the Nile’s water, he said.

The country gets 90 percent of its irrigation and drinking water from the Nile, and has “historical rights” over the river guaranteed under treaties in 1929 and 1959, Bakhit said.

MP Mustafa Al-Jundi said that Egypt has the right to appeal to the African Union, the African Parliament, the UN and international courts in the case of Ethiopia’s intransigence.

Mohamed Abdel-Ati, Egypt’s minister of irrigation and water resources, said this week that Cairo does not oppose the development ambitions of any country “as long as they don’t harm any shares in water or threaten national security.”

The ministry is working to tap all sources of water and implement modern methods in irrigation. Desalination and wastewater treatment plants, and experimental studies into salt water farming are among Egypt’s plans to ensure reliable future supplies, he said.

The Al-Nahda dam was 60 percent complete before work stopped in August as a result of a funding crisis. In January, a Chinese company, Voith Hydro Shanghai, signed a deal to build the turbine generators at the dam.