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Strained Iraqi criminal court orders death penalty for Libyan admitting al Qaeda ties

[JURIST] US military sources in Iraq announced [MNF-Iraq press release] Saturday that earlier this month the Central Criminal Court of Iraq sentenced 16 security detainees accused of terrorism law breaches, illegal weapons possession and border breaches to punishments ranging from death to a year's imprisonment. The heaviest punishment was imposed on a Libyan accused of being a member of al Qaeda in Iraq, who was sentenced to death by hanging as provided under Iraqi law. Most of the other condemned defendants sentenced between December 1 and December 7 were Iraqis, not including two Syrians and two Saudis accused of passport violations, illegal possession of special category weapons and failure to renew resident identification.

The CCCI has held 1,767 trials of insurgents since being re-organizing in 2004, leading to the conviction of 1,521 individuals with sentences ranging up to death. Earlier this year the US State Department noted in its annual human rights report on Iraq [text] was process in the Iraqi court was regularly delayed, and that the time between arrest and arraignment often exceeded 30 days, despite a 24-hour requirement set by local law. The New York Times found in a major investigation of its own published Sunday that although the CCCI has acquitted over half of the defendants brought to it by US and Iraqi forces, defendants have little practical opportunity to present evidence and witnesses, and the court is seriously constrained by both the pressure of its caseload and ongoing dangers to its personnel.

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