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Top ISIS deputy sentenced to death by hanging in Iraqi court

Akil Farouk, who played the role of the judge for NTC's Central Criminal Court of Iraq, questions the defendant about his involvement with terrorism, during a simulated trial at the National Training Center May 25. (Spc. Jonathan W. Thomas/U.S. Army)
September 20, 2018

On Wednesday, an Iraqi court ordered that a deputy of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi be punished by death for charges of terrorism.

Ismail al-Ithawi, who also goes by the name Abu Zaid al-Iraqi, was condemned to death by hanging, and is the highest-ranking member of ISIS to be tried and convicted, The Washington Post reported.

Judicial spokesman Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar said, “The Karkh criminal court in Baghdad sentenced to death by hanging one of the most prominent leaders of IS, who served as a deputy of Baghdadi.”

Al-Ithawi had been working with Iraqi authorities by sharing vital information on coordinated airstrikes since his February capture in Turkey.

Al-Ithawi, a native of Ramadi, played an important role as minister for Baghdadi with duties that included religious lawmaking, creating educational materials for ISIS, and controlling certain financials.

Al-Ithawi is one of the few and the only incarcerated ISIS operatives that saw Baghdadi shortly before his arrest, Rudaw reported. Authorities thought that al-Ithawi might be able to help them pinpoint Baghdadi’s location.

Baghdadi was believed to be dead until an audiotape surfaced in which he stated he was alive and urged Muslims to wage war on jihad.

He has been labeled the “most wanted man on the planet.” A $25 million reward is being offered by the U.S. for his capture.

An Iraqi judge — who didn’t want his name released — said al-Ithawi did assist authorities with locating ISIS members, but that does not assure a lighter sentence or exclusion from the death penalty under anti-terrorism laws in Iraq.

The judge said: “If we arrest Baghdadi, no matter how much he cooperates, he will get the death sentence. This is the least we can do for the victims of the Islamic State.”

The judge confirmed that al-Ithawi did have a public defense attorney representing him in court.

Human rights activists argue that Iraq’s anti-terrorism laws are unfair and work in favor of the prosecutors with too many being sentenced to death. They argue that many who worked for ISIS were forced to do so, and were arrested and sentenced to execution or life in prison.

Further, they claim that the trials are very short and often involve forced admissions of guilt. Defense attorneys criticize the system for not being able to build a defense for their clients.