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Iraq sentences Russian Isil fighter to death by hanging in first ruling of its kind on foreign jihadist

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 13/09/2017 By Josie Ensor, Middle East Correspondent

An oil field in Iraq set on fire by ISIS jhiadist while retriting © Catalyst An oil field in Iraq set on fire by ISIS jhiadist while retriting Iraq has sentenced to death by hanging a Russian who fought for Islamic State in Mosul, in the first such ruling on a foreign fighter and one which could set a precedent. 

The man admitted to being a member of the jihadist group and “carrying out terrorist operations” against Iraqi security forces since 2015, according to a statement released by Baghdad's central criminal court.

He was charged under the country’s anti-terrorism laws, which provides for death by hanging or firing squad. 

Related: Operations Shader: UK war against Isis in numbers (provided by:International Business Times)

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Most suspected local Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) members are being tried in northern Iraq, however most foreigners have been taken south to Baghdad. 

While the number of detainees has not been made public, several hundred non-Iraqis are thought to currently be being held by Iraqi authorities. 

General Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for Joint Operations Command, said the Russian was "the first (jihadist) to surrender" to Iraqi forces in west Mosul, scene of the most ferocious battles.

The 28-year-old fighter was said to have been captured after running out of ammunition.

The Russian was handed over to Iraqi intelligence and then to judicial authorities, said Gen Rasool.

During his interrogation, the Russian said he had studied engineering and discovered Islam in Moscow, where Uzbek construction workers introduced him to the religion.

After obtaining his degree in 2014, the Russia said he travelled to Turkey with the intention of entering Syria to join Isil.

According to his testimony, he pledged allegiance to the jihadist group in Mosul, trained for a month and took the nom de guerre Abu Yasmina al-Russi.

The Russian said he was wounded during combat in Iraq - in the Isil-held cities of Baiji and in Fallujah - before his surrender in Mosul.

Iraqi forces detained hundreds of suspected jihadists during the nine-month operation to recapture the country's second city, which culminated in July. 

They included foreign fighters from a number of Arab and other countries, including Russia, which has faced insurgencies by Chechens and other Muslim groups in the North Caucasus.

It is estimated as many as 7,000 extremists from Russia and other former Soviet states left to join Isil in Iraq and Syria. 

A group of German women were also apprehended in the ruins of Mosul’s Old City, including a 16-year-old convert to Islam who married a Chechen fighter. 

Linda Wenzel’s case became infamous after pictures and videos were published of her looking dishevelled as she was led away by security forces.

The teenager could theoretically face the death sentence, according to Iraq's counter-terrorism law. However, even if she is sentenced to death in Iraq, she would not be executed before the age of 22.

Iraq has said it will try all foreign Isil suspects, however several European governments have said will apply for extradition to see their citizens tried at home. 

Last month, Baghdad sentenced 27 Iraqi Isil fighters to death by hanging over their role in a massacre of up to 1,700 army recruits in 2014.

Judges have told he Telegraph that as many as 5,000 men are being held in prisons around Mosul awaiting trial.

Human rights group have raised their concern at Iraq’s use of the death penalty.

Human Rights Watch said it was working to confirm the ruling but said if true, it would be a “dangerous” if not predictable decision.

In 2016, Iraq executed more than 88 people, topped only by Saudi Arabia, Iran and China.

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