Hungary Sentences Islamic State Commander To Life Imprisonment Over Mass Killings
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary
(Worthy News) – A Hungarian court has sentenced a Syrian national to life imprisonment for his involvement in “crimes against humanity” and “terrorism” as a military leader of the Islamic State terror group in Syria.
Prosecutors successfully argued that the 29-year-old man, identified as Hassan F., participated in killing dozens of people, including the beheading of a religious leader in the city of al-Sukhnah in Homs province.
In a statement monitored by Worthy News, Budapest’s municipal appeals court upheld the life sentence imposed by a lower court in December
However, in a setback for the defendant, it removed the possibility of parole, saying he had “committed the crimes as part of a criminal enterprise.”
The court agreed that the Syrian man’s unit in Homs province in 2015 was tasked with terrorizing and executing civilians and religious leaders who refused to side with the Islamic State group.
Investigators said he was involved in beheading an imam in al-Sukhnah and the murder of another civilian in the area in May 2015. He also drew up a “death list” of people rejecting the Islamic State group.
FORCED TO WATCH
The imam’s execution, which the community was forced to watch, was filmed. Prosecutors say that his unit also killed at least 25 people in the town, including women and children.
Hassan F. denies the charges saying he was in Turkey, not Syria when the atrocities took place. His defense lawyer had previously argued that prosecutors’ evidence – including wire-tapped telephone calls, video footage of the murders, and the man’s statements – failed to support the accusations.
Attorney János Kelen previously disputed that a video of the execution, shown in court, featured F. Witnesses did not personally see the atrocities, he said. At the same time, a lie detector test “was conducted illegally” without a defense attorney, the lawyer claimed.
He also said his client was not in Syria at the time of the incidents. In addition, the lawyer claimed that F. was also “illiterate and incapable” of leading units and organizing killings.
Both the lower and the appeals courts disagreed.
During his initial testimony, Hassan F. asked not to be executed. But the judge explained to him that there “is no death penalty” in the European Union. Yet, the life sentence he received is the most severe penalty possible under EU legislation.
INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATORS INVOLVED
Authorities in Malta, Greece, Belgium, and Hungary participated in the investigation, coordinated by the European judicial cooperation agency Eurojust.
Some ten witnesses in Belgium and Malta, as well as in Hungary, gave testimony.
The man, who had been given refugee status in Greece, was detained at the Hungarian capital’s main airport in December 2018.
His arrest at the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport happened after he presented forged travel documents for himself and a female travel partner.
The trial comes while Hungary’s government prepares for elections next year in which migration is due to be an essential theme.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has accused the European Union of encouraging mass migration. He says the policy will allow radicalized Muslims, including terrorists, to enter Europe threatening its “Christian traditions.”
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