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French FM holds Iraq talks on ISIS prisoners in Syria

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France's top diplomat held talks in Baghdad on Thursday about transferring foreign militants from northern Syria, where a Turkish offensive has triggered fears of mass jailbreaks, to be tried in Iraq.

European governments are worried that the Turkish operation will allow the escape of some of the 12,000 suspected ISIS terrorists, including thousands of foreigners held by Syrian Kurds.

The issue was top of the agenda for French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in his talks with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim, President Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.

"We need to work things out with the Iraqi authorities so that we can find a way to have a judicial mechanism that is able to judge all these fighters, including obviously the French fighters," Le Drian told French TV channel BFM on Wednesday.

The aim is for foreign militants to be tried in Iraqi courts while upholding certain principles of justice and respect for human rights, a French diplomatic source said.

One issue will be Iraq's use of the death penalty, which is outlawed throughout the EU.

Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden sent officials on a technical mission to Baghdad this week to assess the situation.

"There are talks between the Americans, the British, French and Iraqis about funding the construction of prisons," Hisham Al-Hashemi, an Iraqi expert on Daesh, said.

Hundreds of foreigners have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment in Iraq for belonging to Daesh.

Eleven French militants handed over to Iraqi authorities early this year by US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria were sentenced to death by a court in Baghdad.
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