Iraqi man Taha Al-J has gone on trial in Frankfurt following accusations of genocide, murder, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. According to the indictment, the 37-year-old, identified only by his first name and last initial as per German privacy laws, was an active member of the terrorist militant group Islamic State from 2013 to 2019.
Prosecutors allege that in 2015, Al-J bought a Yazidi woman and her five-year-old daughter as slaves at an IS base in Syria. The mother and daughter, named only as Nora and Nadia, had been taken prisoner at the beginning of August 2014 in an assault on the Sinjar region that the UN would later declare as genocide. Boys were forced to fight for the extremists, men were executed if they didn’t convert to Islam, and women and girls like Nora and Nadia were sold into slavery. As maintained by the indictment, Al-J held them in the city of Fallujah, where he chained the girl to the bars of a window in 50˚C open sunlight, letting her die of thirst as a punishment for wetting the bed. Charges were also raised in a Munich court against Al-J’s wife, Jennifer W., a German national who allegedly joined the so-called Islamic State in 2015.
Arrested in May 2019 and extradited to Germany in October, Al-J has since been held in pre-trial custody. The German system does not allow for pleas to be entered and Al-J declined to give an opening comment other than to confirm his identity, as the trial opened on 24 April. The UN declared that the killings of 1,280 Yazidis and kidnappings of 6,400 more, in the August 2014 targeted oppression of Northern Iraq, may have constituted genocide. However, to prosecute on the basis of such an act, legal expert Alexander Schwarz explained that prosecutors will need to show explicit evidence that Al-J committed this crime with the intention to wipe out the Yazidi minority.
Relying on the legal concept of universal jurisdiction, which tries foreign-born defendants for crimes committed abroad, this trial is part of a series that deals with the crimes committed by extremists from the Islamic State. International Law expert, Alexandra Lily Kather, highlighted that “this is the first case going on trial in the world including genocide among the charges with respect to crimes committed against the Yazidi”.
Al-J’s trial resumed on 27 April and is expected to last into August.