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Iraqi twins back in court over Isis massacre allegations

Finnish prosecutors believe that at least one of identical twin brothers is shown executing civilians in an Isis propaganda video.

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

Two Iraqi twins are back in court over allegations that they took part in a massacre in the Iraqi city of Tikrit in 2014. The terror group Isis is accused of executing at least 1,000 unarmed civilians at Camp Speicher.

After many delays, the latest round of the 27-year-old brothers' legal process began on Monday at the Turku Court of Appeal.

According to local newspaper Turun Sanomat, the court tried to bring the case to trial in August last year, but was unable to gain access to question witnesses living in Iraq.

"Now it appears that hearings will be conducted in Iraq. A lot of work has been done to achieve this," state prosecutor Tom Laitinen told the paper on Monday.

Next week the court plans to hear testimony from Iraq via video link, first from the prosecutor's witnesses and later those called by the defence.

The identical twins arrived in Finland as asylum seekers in 2015. They were arrested in December that year on suspicion of involvement in the killings, following tip-offs from other Iraqi asylum seekers in Finland who had seen an Isis propaganda video showing the massacre.

However they were acquitted by a district court in Tampere in May 2017. The prosecutor is now challenging that ruling, and calling for the men to receive life sentences for manslaughter and aggravated murder.

Grisly video

On Monday, the defendants were questioned in court, which also compared photos of their noses in an effort to determine if either or both appear in videos filmed at the scene of the mass killing.

The Isis propaganda video shows a man with a red beret, long hair and a beard executing at least 11 people.

"That combatant closely resembles both of the brothers. However the image quality is so poor that we have not been able to come to definite conclusions through technical procedures as to whether the man in the beret is either of the brothers," Laitinen told the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat.

The twins' lawyers insist that neither of them appear in the video. They have also argued that the case should not be tried in the Finnish courts.

Laitinen points out that Finland is obliged by international treaties to investigate allegations of terrorism and war crimes even if they occurred in another country.

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