Last updated: 6 February, 2012

Iraq court rules death for kidnapper of foreigners

An Iraqi court on Monday condemned a man to death for murder and for kidnapping French citizens and an Iranian consul, the Higher Judicial Council said.

The Central Criminal Court sentenced the man identified only by his initials SKh to hang for “belonging to the so-called Islamic Army and carrying out kidnapping and killing operations, including kidnapping an Iranian consul and two French citizens,” the council said in a statement.

The death sentence can be appealed.

The two journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, were kidnapped together with their Syrian guide, Mohammed al-Jundi, in August 2004 on their way to the Shiite shrine city of Najaf and held hostage for 124 days.

Contacted by AFP, the two journalists declined to comment on Monday.

Also in 2004, Iran’s mission in Baghdad said Fereydun Jahani, its consul in Karbala, disappeared after the Islamic Army said it had “detained” him for “stirring sectarian strife” and “activities outside his diplomatic duties.”

Jahani was released after a 55-day hostage ordeal.

Iraq saw a wave of kidnappings as part of sectarian violence, and also targeting foreigners and wealthy Iraqis, in the years after the 2003 US-led invasion.

Embassies in the capital warn that the threat of kidnapping for foreigners remains high.

The man convicted on Monday was arrested in an army raid on Al-Yarmuk in west Baghdad, and admitted to being the Islamic Army’s leader in the south of Baghdad province — an area known as the Triangle of Death — the council statement said.

He confessed to a judge to kidnapping two brothers as they travelled to the centre of Baghdad province and killing one of them, while the fate of the other is unknown, it said.

The man also admitted to a number of operations including attacking Iraqi officials, kidnapping the French citizens, targeting and kidnapping the Iranian consul and taking part in the killing of an Iraqi army colonel, it said.

A court in 2010 sentenced two Iraqis who admitted to being members of the Islamic Army to life in jail for the kidnapping of the French journalists and for taking part in the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

The August 19 bombing killed UN special representative Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 of his colleagues, and marked the start of an escalating wave of attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups.

The Islamic Army in Iraq is a Sunni Salafist group that includes former army officers in the regime of executed dictator Saddam Hussein. The group first appeared in 2004, a year after the invasion.