On Monday, Iraq condemned a French citizen to death for membership in the Islamic State group.
It’s the fourth conviction of its kind in a span of just 24 hours. On Sunday, an Iraqi judge sentenced three French men — Kevin Gonot, Leonard Lopez and Salim Machou — to death for taking part and planning ISIS attacks, including the Paris attack in 2015 that left 130 people dead. Like his countrymen, Mustapha Merzoughi, who was sentenced Monday, has 30 days to appeal his sentence.
French authorities publicly denounced the death sentences. “France is opposed in principle to the death penalty at all times and in all places,” the French foreign ministry said on Monday, promising to take “the necessary steps” to prevent the sentence from being carried out.
The men are among a dozen French ISIS fighters who were captured in February by the U.S.-backed Syrian Defence Forces (SDF) before being transferred from Syria to Iraq.
Iraq has taken custody of thousands of jihadis, and Baghdad recently announced it had tried and sentenced over 500 suspected foreign ISIS members in the last 18 months. Sentences vary between life imprisonment and death, but Iraq has yet to execute a single former ISIS terrorist.
Merzoughi, wearing a yellow prison uniform, pleaded his innocence to the court, saying he was “not guilty of crimes and killings. I'm guilty of going [to Syria]. I ask for forgiveness from the people of Iraq, Syria, France and the families of the victims.”
The judge disagreed, saying, “the evidence and the confession show that you joined the Islamic State group, that you worked in its military branch.” Merzoughi was sentenced to death by hanging, according to the AFP.
Another French jihadi, Fodhil Tahar Aouidate, had his trial suspended until June 2 after he claimed he had been abused while in custody. Aouidate is accused of appearing in a video celebrating the Paris terror attack that left 130 people dead. "[It is with] great pleasure and joy to see these unbelievers suffer as we suffer here,” Aouidate is accused of saying in the video.
Despite France’s opposition to the death penalty, the French government has repeatedly refused to repatriate any citizens caught in Iraq or Syria fighting with ISIS, saying they should be tried locally.
Cover: In this May 23, 2018 file photo, suspected Islamic State militants wait their turn for sentencing at the counterterrorism court in Baghdad, Iraq. A Baghdad court sentenced to death three French citizens Sunday for being members of the Islamic State group, an Iraqi judicial official said. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)