Iraqi court sentences 2 French Daesh members to death

The sentenced are among a group of 12 French citizens detained by SDF forces in Syria. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 June 2019

Iraqi court sentences 2 French Daesh members to death

  • The new sentences raise the number of French citizens sentenced to death in Iraq to nine
  • France said they would do everything to save the sentenced from death penalty

BAGHDAD: A court in Baghdad on Sunday sentenced two French citizens to death for being members of Daesh, including one who last week said he was subjected to torture while in detention, an Iraqi judicial official said.
The sentencings in Iraq come amid controversy about the legal treatment of thousands of foreign fighters who had joined Daesh at the height of its power in Syria and Iraq, when the militant group declared its self-styled caliphate.
Human rights groups are concerned these defendants are being rushed through Iraqi counterterrorism courts in trials that raise questions over whether justice is being done. Convictions are often based on confessions that defendants and rights groups say are extracted by intimidation, torture and abuse and without due process.
The judicial official said the court sentenced to death Fadil Hamad Abdallah, 33, of Moroccan origin and Vianney Jamal Abdelqader, 29. Abdallah, who was known within the group as Abu Mariam, told the court last week that he was subjected to torture. He was then referred to a medical committee that, after examining him, said he had made false claims about torture.
The judicial official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The new sentences raise the number of French citizens given death sentences over the past two weeks to nine.
France has said it would do all it can to spare the group from execution in Iraq. Although it has made no effort to bring back the captured fighters, France has taken an outspoken stance against the death penalty worldwide.
Although European Daesh members have been sentenced to death, none have actually been executed in Iraq.
Those sentenced are among a group of 12 French citizens who were detained by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in neighboring Syria and handed over to Iraq in January.
The Kurdish-led group spearheaded the fight against Daesh in Syria and has handed hundreds of suspected Daesh members over to Iraq in recent months.
An Iraqi intelligence official told The Associated Press that the SDF handed over to Syria 1,142 Iraqi Daesh members, of which 157 were sentenced to death. He added that five other foreigners were transferred to Iraq, including two Iranians, two Tunisians and a Chinese national. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Also in Baghdad, Iraqi authorities handed over 122 Turkish children of suspected Daesh militants to Turkey’s government representatives, according to a statement by the justice ministry. Sunday’s handover came days after 188 other children were handed over to Turkish authorities.
In an interview with Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency last month, Turkey’s ambassador in Baghdad said he aimed to repatriate all children of Turkish Daesh families from Iraq ahead of Eid Al-Fitr that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and is expected to begin on Tuesday. Ambassador Fatih Yildiz also said Turkey asked Iraq to return all Turkish citizens but the process was complicated by an agreement that barred suspects with terror links from repatriation.


Enduring miseries drive exodus of Tunisian youth

Updated 34 min 1 sec ago

Enduring miseries drive exodus of Tunisian youth

  • Despite vote for change in the country, there seems to be no end of frustration among young people

SFAX/TUNISIA: It only took 10 minutes for Fakher Hmidi to slip out of his house, past the cafes where unemployed men spend their days, and reach the creek through the mud flats where a small boat would ferry him to the migrant ship heading from Tunisia to Italy.

He left late at night, and the first his parents knew of it was the panicked, crying phone call from an Italian mobile number: “The boat is sinking. We’re in danger. Ask mum to forgive me.”

Hmidi, 18, was one of several people from his Thina district of the eastern city of Sfax among the dozens still unaccounted for in this month’s capsizing off the Italian island of Lampedusa, as ever more Tunisians join the migrant trail to Europe.

His loss, and the continued desire among many young men in Thina to make the same dangerous journey, vividly demonstrate the economic frustration that also drove voters to reject Tunisia’s political elite in recent elections.

In a parliamentary vote on Oct. 6, the day before Hmidi’s boat sank just short of the Italian coast, no party won even a quarter of seats and many independents were elected instead. On Sunday, the political outsider Kais Saied was elected president.

In the Hmidis’ modest home, whose purchase was subsidized by the government and on which the family is struggling to meet the repayment schedule, his parents sit torn with grief.

“Young people here are so frustrated. There are no jobs. They have nothing to do but sit in cafes and drink coffee or buy drugs,” said Fakher’s father, Mokhtar, 55.

Mokhtar lost his job as a driver two years ago and has not been able to find work since. Fakher’s mother, Zakia, sells brik, a fried Tunisian egg snack, to bring in a little extra money. His two elder sisters, Sondes, 29, and Nahed, 24, work in a clothes shop.

Much of the little they had went to Fakher, the family said, because they knew he was tempted by the idea of going to Europe. At night the family would sit on their roof and see the smuggler boats setting off. The seashore was “like a bus station,” they said.

 

Decline

At a cafe near the Hmidis’ home, a few dozen mostly young men sat at tables, drinking strong coffee and smoking cigarettes.

Mongi Krim, 27, said he would take the next boat to Europe if he could find enough money to pay for the trip even though, he said, he has lost friends at sea.

A survey by the Arab Barometer, a research network, said a third of all Tunisians, and more than half of young people, were considering emigrating, up by 50 percent since the 2011 revolution.

The aid agency Mercy Corps said last year that a new surge of migration from Tunisia began in 2017, a time when the economy was dipping.

Krim is unemployed but occasionally finds a day or week of work as a casual laborer. He points at the potholes on the road and says even town infrastructure has declined.

For this and the lack of jobs, he blames the government. He did not vote in either the parliamentary or the presidential election. “Why would I? It is all the same. There is no change,” he said.

Unemployment is higher among young people than anyone else in Tunisia. In the first round of the presidential election on Sept. 15, and in the parliamentary election, in which voter turnout was low, they also abstained by the highest margin.

When an apparently anti-establishment candidate, Kais Saied, went through to the second round of the presidential election on Sunday, young people backed him overwhelmingly.

But their support for a candidate touting a clear break from normal post-revolutionary politics only underscored their frustration at the direction Tunisia took under past leaders.

At the table next to Krim, Haddaj Fethi, 32, showed the inky finger that proved he had voted on Sunday. “I cannot imagine a young man who would not have voted for Saied,” he said.

On the bare patch of mud by the creek where Fakher Hmidi took the boat, some boys were playing. For them, the migration to Europe is — as it was for Hmidi — a constant background possibility in a country that offers them few other paths.

SPEEDREAD

The continued desire among many young men in Thina to make the dangerous journey, vividly demonstrate the economic frustration that also drove voters to reject Tunisia’s political elite in recent elections.

At the time of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, they had great hope, Mohkhtar Hmidi said. But economically, things got worse. Fakher found little hope in politics, he said.

Despite the apparent surge of young support for Saied as president, he has been careful to make no promises about what Tunisia’s future holds, only to pledge his personal probity and insist that he will rigidly uphold the law.

The economy is in any case not the president’s responsibility, but that of a government formed by parties in the Parliament, whose fractured nature will make coalition building particularly difficult this year.

Any government that does emerge will face the same dilemmas as its predecessors — tackling high unemployment, high inflation, a lower dinar and the competing demands of powerful unions and foreign lenders.

An improvement would come too late for the Hmidi family, still waiting nearly two weeks later for confirmation that their only son has drowned.

“Fakher told me he wanted to go to France. ‘This is my dream,’ he said to me. ‘There is no future here. You can’t find a job. How can I?’,” Mokhtar said, and his wife started to cry.