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Finnish court tries Iraqi twins on mass-murder charges

Court proceedings begin in Tampere on Tuesday for two Iraqi brothers facing war crimes charges. They deny the allegations and their defence lawyers say that video evidence is unreliable.

Terroristiepäillyn vangitsemisoikeudenkäynti Tampereella
One of the suspects in an earlier court appearance. Image: Leena Peltokangas / Yle

Pirkanmaa District Court has begun the preliminary phase of the war-crimes trial of Iraqi twin brothers. The defendants are not in the courtroom yet as the prosecutor, defence attorney and judges settle on procedural matters.

The applications for their summons have been published. The documents explain that in June 2014 the terror group ISIS took over the cities of Mosul and Tikrit as well as the nearby Camp Speicher military base. ISIS captured some 1500 Iraqi soldiers, including new conscripts. In the days that followed, more than 1,000 of them were killed.

In December 2015, the Iraqi twin brothers, now aged 23, were detained a few months after arriving in Finland. Since then the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has been investigating them on suspicion of killing 11 people near Tikrit.

Mika Miesmäki, the lawyer defending one of the suspects, tells Yle that the video evidence presented so far is unconvincing, as it is difficult to positively identify the individuals shown. He also argues that it is very difficult to ascertain the veracity of the Iraqi documents presented.

The prosecutor is seeking convictions on charges of terrorism-based murder and war crimes including aggravated killing and assault.

The defendants deny the charges, and at least one of them denies even being present at the scene. The main part of the trial is expected to get underway in January.

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