Middle East

IS Camp Speicher massacre: Iraq sentences 40 to death

Iraqi Shia fighters examine a burial site thought to hold victims of the Camp Speicher massacre. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mass graves were discovered near Camp Speicher after Iraqi government forces recaptured the area

Iraq has sentenced 40 men to death over the killing of up to 1,700 military recruits at a former US base in 2014.

The Camp Speicher massacre was carried out by fighters from the so-called Islamic State (IS) group as they seized territory across northern Iraq.

Outrage over the massacre of the mostly Shia cadets helped mobilise Iraq's Shia militias in the fight against IS.

Many of those sentenced were appealing against earlier rulings. Rights groups have criticised the trials.

IS released photos and video documenting the massacre in 2014.

Mass graves were discovered when Iraqi government forces recaptured the area, including the nearby town of Tikrit, in 2015.

Several people were arrested during the government offensive on suspicion of involvement in the crime.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Islamic State filmed soldiers they captured in Tikrit, prior to their killing
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hundreds of bodies have been exhumed since government forces recaptured Tikrit

On Thursday, a Baghdad court convicted 40 defendants over the killings, under anti-terrorism legislation.

Seven defendants were released because of a lack of evidence, a judicial spokesman said.

A judicial official told the AFP news agency that all 47 defendants were Iraqi citizens.

The 40 included 24 defendants who had appealed against sentences for the same crime handed down last year.

Some said they had not been near Tikrit at the time of the massacre, while others said they had been denied access to lawyers, or had been forced to confess under torture.

Photos and videos published by IS after the massacre showed soldiers being loaded onto vehicles and forced to lie face down on the ground before being shot dead.