Friday, April 28, 2006

A British Jihadi in Iraq?

I only recently came across this interesting story in the Times. A British student in Iraq, Mobeen Muneef, gets 15 years from an Iraqi court for a visa violation - i.e. he entered Iraq without one. That would indeed seem a very harsh sentence, but of course he isn't really being punished for the visa offence. Both the Iraqis who convicted him and his family and his legal team trying to defend him say that the length of the sentence is to serve as a warning to other foreign Muslim who want to come to Iraq to join the insurgency. The only difference is the Iraqis say he was fighting with the insurgents and his supporters say he wasn't.

Of course one newspaper story is not a fair trial but the evidence against him as put forward by the report is pretty damning. He was seen handling weapons for insurgents who then fired at US troops as they chased Muneef, he entered the country illegally from Syria where he had been studying for some years, he was in Ramadi - not a very safe part of the country for a foreigner, and allegedly he had traces of explosive on his hands.

His family and defence team seem to be pushing a risky line by saying that he shouldn't have been charged for the visa violation. Surely, the alternative is to have been tried by the court of being part of the insurgency - a crime that could lead to the death penalty. They are also complaining that he has been held by the US in Iraq rather than in an Iraqi prison. After the Abu Ghraib scandal led to changing some rules, I would imagine that being held by Americans is actually the better option to being held by the Iraqi government.

The article also states that "at least" eight British men have died fighting for the insurgents, including three as suicide bombers. There hasn't been much reporting on that - I might dig around to see if I can come up with more information.

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