An Iraqi court sentenced 16 Turkish women to death by hanging for joining the Islamic State, an Iraq judiciary official confirmed Sunday.
It is the latest round of harsh punishment handed down in connection with ongoing trials of hundreds of foreign women detained since August.
Iraq’s central criminal court issued the sentences “after it was proven they belong to the Daesh terrorist group and after they confessed to marrying Daesh elements or providing members of the group with logistical aid or helping them carry out terrorist attacks,” Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
All the verdicts are subject to appeal, al-Birqdar told Reuters.
Thousands of foreign women joined ISIS after the group tore through northern Iraq in 2014 and seized nearly a third of the country’s territory. While some women were brought to Iraq and Syria against their will, many traveled voluntarily to join militants in their self-declared “caliphate.”
Roughly 1,700 women and children have surrendered or been captured since summer 2017, when Iraqi forces began retaking ISIS-controlled territory along the Syrian border. Iraq’s government declared victory over ISIS December 2017 after Iraqi forces expelled militants from their last remaining pockets in western Iraq.
Iraqi courts have since tried dozens of women accused of voluntarily joining with ISIS. Another Turkish woman was sentenced to death in February, while 10 others of various nationalities were given life-imprisonment terms for alleged ISIS membership. Baghdad’s central court sentenced an unnamed German woman in January to death for traveling to Syria with her two children to join ISIS.
Human-rights groups say harsh sentences have been handed down after unfair trials. Some women were convicted despite not having been implicated in violent acts, according to Human Rights Watch, citing courtroom observers.
Defense lawyers also argued militant husbands either tricked or forced their wives into traveling to Iraq and Syria.
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