Iraq sentences two more Frenchmen to death for IS membership

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi court sentenced two Frenchmen to death on Monday for membership of Islamic State, a prosecutor told Reuters, bringing the total number of French citizens on death row in Iraq to 11.

The sentences can be appealed. President Emmanuel Macron’s government has said France opposes the death penalty but respects Iraqi sovereignty.

Iraq is conducting trials of thousands of suspected Islamic State fighters, including hundreds of foreigners, many of whom were arrested as the group’s strongholds crumbled. The group declared an ultra-radical Sunni Islamist “caliphate” spanning parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

The 11 convicted men were among 280 Iraqi and foreign detainees handed to Iraqi authorities in February by the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Military sources said at the time the group included 14 French nationals but it appears some foreign residents of France were mistaken for citizens.

A Tunisian man was tried and sentenced to death alongside some of the Frenchmen last week and another Tunisian will stand trial next week.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Friday that one of the Frenchmen sentenced last week told the court he was forced to confess and that a second told a judge he was tortured.

HRW put the number of French detainees transferred to Iraq in February at 11.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Catherine Evans