Iraq sentences two more French ISIS members to death

Paris is exerting pressure on Baghdad to spare its citizens

FILE - in this Thursday, April 26, 2018 file photo, the defendant's cage is in the center of an empty courtroom at Nineveh Criminal Court, one of two counterterrorism courts in Iraq where suspected Islamic State militants and their associates are tried, in Tel Keif, Iraq. A Baghdad court sentenced to death three French citizens Sunday for being members of the Islamic State group, an Iraqi judicial official said. The official said the three were among 12 French citizens handed over to Iraq in January by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Then SDF has handed over to Iraq hundreds of suspected IS members in recent months. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)
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A total of six French nationals have now been condemned to death in Iraq for belonging to ISIS with two new sentences on Tuesday, as Paris increased efforts to spare its citizens from execution.

On Sunday, three Frenchmen were found guilty of belonging to the militant group and then a fourth was condemned to death on Monday. Thousands of Iraqi and foreign suspects are in Iraqi custody facing charges related to fighting with or supporting terror groups.

All those convicted have 30 days to appeal the charge. France, which earlier this week said it opposes the death penalty in all cases, has called on Iraq not to carry out the sentence.

"We are increasing the steps to avoid the death penalty for these four French citizens," Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on France Inter radio on Tuesday, before the fresh sentences were issued.

Mr Le Drian did not elaborate further, but said he spoke to Iraqi President, Barham Salih, about the case.

The men are identified as Brahim Nejara and Karam El Harchaoui, both in their 30s.

They are among 13 French nationals caught in Syria who were hand over to Iraq at the beginning of the year by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

One was released after Iraqi authorities found no evidence he had fought with a militant group and said he had entered Syria “legally” to help the Yazidi community kidnapped by ISIS.

The SDF led the fight against ISIS in Syria and has handed over to Iraq hundreds of suspected members in recent months.

The French Foreign Ministry said it was opposed in principle to the death penalty at all times and in all places.

The death penalty was abolished in France in 1981 and French law forbids the government extraditing someone who could face the death penalty for their crimes without specific guarantees that the sentence will not be handed down.

The men were tried in specialist Iraqi courts set up to deal with terrorism charges.

But the sentencing came amid a controversy about the legal treatment of the suspects by Iraqi authorities.

Human rights organisations have expressed concern and say the suspects are at risk of torture in detention centres.

Human Rights Watch also criticised Iraq’s counterterrorism law as “deeply flawed and vague,” noting that some of the trials for ISIS suspects were as short as “five minutes”.