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France calls on Iraq to spare six of its citizens from death penalty

PARIS (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday said France was intensifying diplomatic efforts to prevent six of its citizens being executed in Iraq after they were sentenced to death for belonging to Islamic State.

FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attends a working session during the Foreign ministers of G7 nations meeting in Dinard, France, April 6, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/Pool

Iraqi courts sentenced two more French nationals to death on Tuesday, bringing the number of French Islamic State members facing the death penalty to six.

Another four are due to be sentenced in the next week and 12 more are awaiting their fate, according to the French Association for Victims of Terrorism (AFVT), which has called for all French jihadists to be sent home to face trial.

“On the six sentenced to death we have said and will repeat our position of being against the death penalty to the Iraqi authorities,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

Iraq is conducting trials of thousands of suspected Islamic State fighters, including hundreds of foreigners, with many arrested as the group’s strongholds crumbled throughout Iraq.

The French government has refused to take back Islamic State fighters and their wives, although a handful of children have been repatriated. It has called the adults “enemies” of the nation, saying they should face justice either in Syria or Iraq.

Le Drian said there were some 400-450 French nationals held in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria, including children, and a further 100 fighting in the rebel-held Idlib region of Syria.

With no recognised legal system in the Kurdish Syrian areas, Western countries have not opposed the transfer of some jihadists from the region to Iraq to face justice. More than a dozen French jihadists have already been transferred.

The AFVT on Tuesday called on the French government to stop giving a green light for such militants to be moved to Iraq.

It said France should pressure the government in Baghdad government to reduce sentences to life imprisonment so that those found guilty can be questioned by French judicial authorities.

Reporting by John Irish and Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Frances Kerry