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Three French IS fighters sentenced to death in Iraq

An Iraqi court sentenced to death three Frenchmen IS fighters after finding them guilty of joining the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

The convicts were Kévin Gonot, Léonard Lopez and Salim Machou who have 30 days to appeal against the sentences.

The three who have been handed down death sentences were among 12 French citizens captured in Syria by US-backed fighters. The French IS men were transferred to Iraq in February this year.

The three are the first IS suspects from France to be sentenced to death.

France has not commented on the Sunday’s sentencing its citizens in Iraq. However, in February this year when the French President Emmanuel Macron was asked to comment he declined, saying it was a sovereign matter for Iraq.

Human rights groups have heavily criticised the trials of suspected IS fighters in Iraq. Activists they say the courts often rely on circumstantial evidence or confessions made under duress.

Gonot, 32, is from south-eastern France. He is believed to have entered Syria through Turkey to join the al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda, before pledging allegiance to IS.

He was arrested in Syria with his mother, his wife, and his half-brother in December 2017. A French court has also sentenced him in absentia to nine years in prison.

Machou, 41, belonged to an IS cell composed of European fighters that has carried out attacks in Iraq and Syria and planned others in Paris and Brussels, according to the Centre d’Analyse du Terrorisme (CAT), a French think tank.

Lopez, a 32-year-old from Paris, also travelled with his wife and two children to IS-held Mosul in northern Iraq before entering Syria, CAT quotes French investigators as saying.