Sixteen Turkish women who fled their country to join their terrorist husbands in Iraq were sentenced by an Iraqi court Sunday to death by hanging, Deutsche Welle reported.
The death sentences were the latest in a series of controversial, fast-tracked trials involving foreign women who entered the country while the Islamic State group controlled a wide swath of it.
Courts in Baghdad are currently in the midst of trying hundreds of foreign women who were taken into custody after the collapse of the last Islamic State strongholds in Iraq during the past year.
“Some of the women, between the ages of 20 and 50, were accompanied by young children,” Deutsche Welle noted.
“The women told the court that they had entered Iraq illegally to be with their husbands who had left to join (the Islamic State group), which at the time was gaining significant ground in Iraq and Syria. One woman told the judge that she had actively taken part in the fighting.”
The women “confessed to marrying Daesh elements or providing members of the group with logistical aid or helping them carry out terrorist attacks,” the judge said.
The sentence comes one week after another Turkish woman was given a death sentence for her involvement with the Islamic State group. Ten other foreign women were sentenced to life behind bars at that time.
Last month, a German woman was sentenced to death as well.
While officials in Baghdad are trying to clear the docket as quickly as possible — there are over 500 foreign women in custody among an estimated 1,500-1,700 women associated with the Islamic State group — human rights groups have expressed outrage over the severity of the sentences.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch called the sentences some of the women were receiving “unfair.”
“Iraq’s courts are sentencing women to life in prison and even to death for non-violent crimes,” Human Rights Watch stated. “It is just one indicator of how people viewed as colluding with ISIS are receiving unfair trials. The women have been charged with illegally entering Iraq and, in some cases, aiding, abetting or having membership in ISIS, which carries the penalty of life in prison or death under Iraq’s counterterrorism law.”
Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar noted that all the verdicts are subject to appeal, but Human Rights Watch remained unconvinced that would make the process more fair.
“A courtroom observer said that the women’s lawyers contended that the defendants’ husbands or others had tricked them into going to ISIS territory, but maintained that none of the women had been implicated in any violent acts,” read the statement, issued after last week’s sentences.
“One woman said in court that her husband took their 2-year-old son and told her to follow him to Iraq or she wouldn’t see her son again.”
“The observer said the prosecution did not present evidence contesting the defense. Yet, the judges found all the women guilty of ISIS membership. The woman sentenced to death was found to have knowingly travelled to ISIS territory to join the group with her husband,” the statement added.
While Human Rights Watch is certainly not the most unbiased source — the group notes that it “opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an irreversible, degrading, and cruel punishment” — other sources have raised questions about whether the fast-tracked Iraqi trials are actually punishing innocent civilians.
The Washington Post reported a case where two Turkish men who professed their innocence were sentenced to death after a trial that lasted less than 20 minutes.
“Appearing in court for the first time since being arrested in August on charges of belonging to that group, they professed their innocence, telling the judge they were simply plumbers who migrated to Iraq from Turkey looking for work,” The Post reported in December.
“After an 18-minute trial, they were sentenced to death by hanging.”
Turkey is currently one of the few nations actively trying to reclaim citizens that were detained by Iraqi officials on suspicion of ties with the Islamic State group.
“We are in touch with the Iraqi authorities in terms of finding out their whereabouts and ensuring their repatriation,” read a 2017 statement from Turkey’s foreign ministry.
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