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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

French FM holds Iraq talks on IS prisoners in Syria

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BAGHDAD: France’s top diplomat held talks in Baghdad on Thursday about transferring foreign militants from northern Syria, where a Turkish offensive has triggered fears of mass jailbreaks, to be tried in Iraq.


European governments are worried that the Turkish operation will allow the escape of some of the 12,000 suspected IS group fighters — including thousands of foreigners — held by Syrian Kurds.


The issue was top of the agenda for French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in his talks with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Ali al Hakim, President Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.


Le Drian said he had discussed with Iraqi leaders “the way to implement an appropriate judicial mechanism” to try French and other fighters “in the best conditions”.


The aim is for foreign militants to be tried in Iraqi courts while upholding certain principles of justice and respect for human rights, a French diplomatic source said.


One issue will be Iraq’s use of the death penalty, which is outlawed throughout the EU.


Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden sent officials on a technical mission to Baghdad this week to assess the situation.


“There are talks between the Americans, the British, French and Iraqis about funding the construction of prisons,” Hisham al Hashemi, an Iraqi expert on IS, said.


Le Drian urged the international coalition against IS to confront the “new risks created by the Turkish intervention in northeast Syria and the risk of an IS resurgence.”


Hundreds of foreigners have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment in Iraq for belonging to IS.


Eleven French militants handed over to Iraqi authorities early this year by US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria were sentenced to death by a court in Baghdad.


In April, Iraq offered to try foreign IS suspects in exchange for operational costs.


One Iraqi official said Baghdad had requested $2 billion to put the suspects on trial.


Turkey on Monday accused Kurdish forces of deliberately releasing IS prisoners held at a prison in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad “in an attempt to fuel chaos in the area”. — AFP


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