Sweden jails Syrian over regime soldiers' execution



A Swedish court on Thursday sentenced a Syrian jihadist to life in prison for participating in a 2012 mass execution of seven regime soldiers in northwestern Syria.

As a member of an armed Islamist group, 46-year-old Haisam Omar Sakhanh took part in a May 2012 attack to capture the seven men and in their execution two days later, the Stockholm district court said in a statement.

He killed one of the soldiers with an assault rifle, it said.

In early 2013, Sakhanh left Syria and sought asylum in Sweden, where he was granted a residence permit.

The New York Times had in September 2013 published a video showing him participating in the execution of the soldiers, who were not identified.

Sakhanh, who was arrested in central Sweden in March last year, admitted being in the video but argued he was ordered to carry out the execution by his senior commanders and that a legitimate court had handed down the death sentence after a fair trial.

The Stockholm court rejected his claim of a legitimate trial, and said his actions were "a violation of international humanitarian law" and "a serious crime against the law of nations."

"In this case it has been proven that less than two days passed between the capturing of the soldiers and the execution," the court said.

It said the soldiers had "been executed under particularly cruel circumstances". The victims had been forced to kneel and several of them had their hands tied behind their backs.

"The victims had substantial injuries after having been subjected to grievous bodily harm and entirely lacked the ability to defend themselves," the court said.

Before fighting in Syria, Sakhanh spent 10 years in Italy working as an electrician in Milan, according to Italian media.

Sakhanh was arrested in February 2012 in Rome for violent behaviour during a protest against President Bashar al-Assad outside the Syrian embassy in the Italian capital but did not attend his trial the following month.

In August, Sweden sentenced another Syrian man to eight years in prison for war crimes.