Paris, Feb 25: Iraqi courts will prosecute 13 French citizens captured while fighting for the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria, Iraq’s President Barham Saleh said Monday.
The fighters, who were turned over to Iraq after being seized by Syrian Kurdish forces, “will be judged according to Iraqi law,” Saleh told a news conference after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
“Those who have engaged in crimes against Iraq and Iraqi installations and personnel, we are definitely seeking them and seeking their trial in Iraqi courts,” he said. An Iraqi government source in Baghdad had told AFP earlier Monday that 14 French fighters had been brought to Iraq by the US-backed forces trying to dislodge IS jihadists from their last bastion in Syria.
France has long maintained that any of its nationals caught in Syria or Iraq should be tried locally, a stance which critics say could leave them facing the death penalty, which is outlawed in France. Macron reiterated this position Monday, saying that “it is up to the authorities of these countries to decide, sovereignly, if they will be tried there.” “These people are entitled to benefit from our consular protection, and our diplomatic service will be mobilised,” he added.
Macron also said he would visit Iraq in the coming months, after France announced in January that it would provide one billion euros (USD 1.1 billion) in reconstruction funds for the war-ravaged country.