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Iraq condemns 15 alleged female ISIS members to die by hanging

An Iraqi federal police member waves his country's national flag as he celebrates in the Old City of Mosul, July 9, 2017, after the government's announcement of the "liberation" of the embattled city from ISIS occupation.

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BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi criminal court on Sunday sentenced 15 Turkish women to death by hanging after finding them guilty of belonging to the Islamic State or Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a judicial official said. Aged between 20 and 50, the women said they had entered Iraq illegally to join their husbands who were heading to fight for the self-proclaimed "caliphate" straddling vast areas of Iraq and Syria, the official added.

Four of the women, all of whom were dressed in black, were accompanied by young children in the courtroom, he said.

Another Turkish woman accused of joining the jihadist group was given a life sentence, the official said, adding they had all acknowledged the charges against them. One of them told the judge she had taken part in fighting against Iraqi forces alongside the jihadists, he said.

Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar told AFP the women had a month to appeal.

Last week, another group of foreign widows of ISIS fighters told a court hearing attended by an AFP journalist that they had been fooled or threatened by their husbands to head to Iraq.

Iraq, which has detained at least 560 women, as well as 600 children identified as jihadist or relatives of suspected ISIS fighters, is wasting no time in putting them on trial.

In January, a court sentenced a German woman to death on charges of providing logistical support to ISIS, and a Turkish woman was earlier this month also handed the death penalty.

Human Rights Watch denounced the rulings as "unfair".

Earlier this week, a Baghdad court sentenced a French woman, Melina Boughedir, to seven months in jail for entering Iraq illegally but ordered her release on time already served.

Baghdad declared military victory over ISIS in December, after having expelled the jihadists from all urban centers they had held in northern and western Iraq since 2014.

Experts estimate that 20,000 people are being held in jail in Iraq for alleged membership of ISIS. There is no official figure.

Separately, authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan said in early February they had detained some 4,000 suspected ISIS members, including foreigners.

Iraq's anti-terrorism law empowers courts to convict people who are believed to have helped ISIS even if they are not accused of carrying out attacks.

It also allows for the death penalty to be issued against anyone -- including non-combatants -- found guilty of belonging to ISIS.