The Iraqi court that has now sentenced four French citizens to death for being members of the Islamic State terrorist group has jurisdiction to rule in the case, France confirmed on Monday.
Islamic State terrorists “must answer for their crimes in court,” France’s foreign affair’s ministry spokeswoman, Agnès von der Mühll, confirmed.
She spoke 24-hours after three French citizens were found guilty of joining the Islamic State terrorist group, as Breitbart News reported, and a fourth Mustapha Merzoughi, 37, was sentenced to death by hanging, according to an AFP journalist at the court.
Captured in Syria by a U.S.-backed force fighting the jihadists, they are the first French terrorists to receive death sentences in Iraq, where they were transferred for trial.
The four sentenced to death are part of a group of 12 French terror suspects whose cases faced the Iraq justice system.
All will be tried according to Iraq’s counterterrorism law — which can dole out the death penalty to anyone who joined a terror group, even if they were not in direct combat.
In Paris, von der Mühll said France’s position is that adults detained in Iraq must be tried by the Iraqi justice system, as soon as it declares itself competent.
“France respects the sovereignty of Iraqi authorities” she added, though she expressed her country’s opposition to the death penalty, “in principle, at all times and in all places.”
Iraq has taken custody of thousands of jihadists repatriated in recent months from neighbouring Syria, where they were caught by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces during the battle to destroy the IS “caliphate”.
In 2015 one report by the French senate revealed 47 percent of all known jihadists in what was then Islamic State territory were French citizens, with national intelligence networks having to keep tabs on up to 3,000 individuals at any one time.
Iraqi courts have since placed on trial hundreds of foreigners, condemning many to life in prison and others to death, although no foreign IS members have yet been executed.
No date has yet been for the execution of the French terrorists.
AP contributed to this story