18:05 GMT29 July 2021
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    On Monday, 37-year-old French citizen Mustapha Merzoughi was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court for joining the Daesh militant group, just one day after three other French men, Kevin Gonot, 32; Leonard Lopez, 32; and Salim Machou, 41; received the same sentence for their membership.

    "The evidence and the confession show that you joined the Islamic State group, that you worked in its military branch," the unidentified judge told Merzoughi before sentencing him to death, Iraqi News reported. In court, Merzoughi pleaded his innocence, saying that he is not "guilty of crimes and killings," but instead "guilty of going [to Syria]." 

    "I ask for forgiveness from the people of Iraq, Syria, France and the families of the victims," Merzoughi, who received received religious and military training in the Iraqi city of Mosul, told the judge. Although he previously told investigators that he "pledged allegiance to a masked Islamic State leader in Mosul," he told the judge Monday that he was detained by the jihadist group for "spying."

    Gonot, Lopez and Machou were also convicted of helping plan the 2015 Paris attacks, in which Daesh suicide bombers targeted a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars in the European city, leaving 130 people dead and hundreds of others wounded. All four militants have 30 days to appeal their sentences, Vice News reports.

    The four men are among around a dozen French Daesh militants who were seized in February by the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, an alliance consisting of mostly Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian militias, before being sent to Iraq. 

    French jihadi Fodhil Tahar Aouidate, 32, also appeared in court Monday. He is accused of appearing in a video celebrating the 2015 Paris attacks. However, his trial was postponed to June 2, so he could undergo a medical examination after claiming he was beaten in police custody.

    On Monday, the French Foreign Ministry claimed that it would take "necessary steps" to stop the Iraqi government from inflicting the death penalty upon its citizens.

    "France is opposed in principle to the death penalty at all times and in all places," the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement obtained by multiple news sources.

    However, France has repeatedly ordered that any of its citizens captured in Iraq or Syria and accused of conspiring with Daesh face trial locally.


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