Iraq begins trial proceedings for 900 militant suspects

Iraq has already tried thousands of its own nationals arrested on home soil for joining Daesh — including women — and has sentenced hundreds to death. (File photo: Reuters)
Updated 14 April 2019
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Iraq begins trial proceedings for 900 militant suspects

BAGHDAD: Iraq has begun trial proceedings for nearly 900 Iraqi suspected members of the Daesh group caught fleeing extremist territory in neighboring Syria, a judicial source told AFP on Sunday.
They were handed over to Iraqi authorities by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which ousted Daesh from swathes of eastern Syria including territory bordering Iraq.
“We received the interrogation files of nearly 900 Iraqi Daesh members coming from Syria,” the court official said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
“The specialized terrorism court has begun setting dates for their trial in batches,” the source added.
The nearly 900 suspected militants were transferred by the SDF to Iraqi custody in recent months as the remnants of Daesh’ once sprawling self-declared “caliphate” collapsed in neighboring Syria.
Additional Iraqi suspects are in SDF custody and awaiting transferral, a security source told AFP Sunday.
“They will be handed over in batches on the Syrian-Iraqi border. They include very influential leaders, but IS had sought to keep them hidden,” the security source said using another acronym for Daesh.
One of those destined to be handed over was deeply involved in Daesh’ efforts to develop chemical weapons, he said.
Iraq has already tried thousands of its own nationals arrested on home soil for joining Daesh — 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.
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 Daesh members have yet been executed.
Among those awaiting trial in Baghdad are 12 accused French Daesh 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 criticized these trials, which they say often rely on circumstantial evidence or confessions obtained under torture.


Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

Updated 24 April 2019
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Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

  • Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country
  • The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation

PRISTINA: Kosovo prosecutors have requested the house arrest of 16 women repatriated from Syria, saying they are suspected of joining or taking part as foreign fighters there.

The women appeared on Wednesday in court in Pristina, a day after 10 other women were put under house arrest. None have been charged with a crime.

Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country.

The women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Centre in the outskirts of Pristina but were freed to go home after 72 hours.

Ten women were seen entering Pristina Basic Court in a police escort on Tuesday. The court said in a statement later that they had been placed under house arrest on charges of joining foreign armed groups and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq from 2014 to 2019.

The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation and more of them are expected to appear in front of judges on Wednesday. The prosecution has yet to file charges.

After the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return to their home countries.

Kosovo's population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but the country is largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.

Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.

International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

On Saturday, 110 Kosovar citizens — the four alleged foreign fighters, 32 women and 74 children — were returned to Kosovo with assistance from the United States, the first such move for a European country.

Authorities say there are still 87 Kosovar citizens in Syria.