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article imageFinnish court holds twins in custody over Iraq massacre

By AFP     Dec 11, 2015 in World

A Finnish court on Friday remanded in custody Iraqi twin brothers suspected of killing 11 people in a massacre by the Islamic State group in Iraq in 2014.

"The Tampere district court has remanded in custody, upon the National Bureau of Investigation's (NBI) request, two men who are suspected of 11 murders with terrorist intent," the NBI said in a statement after the court's hearing.

Friday's proceedings were held behind closed doors, but the NBI's Chief Inspector Jari Raty told AFP afterwards that the suspects pleaded not guilty.

The NBI suspects the pair, 23-year-old twins from Iraq whose names have not been disclosed, of shooting dead 11 unarmed captives during a massacre in the Iraqi city of Tikrit in June 2014.

Finnish authorities escort a 23-year-old suspect (centre) into the court room in Tampere  on Decembe...
Finnish authorities escort a 23-year-old suspect (centre) into the court room in Tampere, on December 11, 2015
Anni Reenpaa, Lehtikuva/AFP

In July 2015, IS released footage of the massacre in which it executed hundreds of mostly-Shiite military recruits captured at the Speicher military base in Tikrit, hometown of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The highest estimates put the number of executed cadets at 1,700.

Raty said that the IS video of the massacre was a central piece of evidence in the investigation.

"The nature of the crime is visible in the video... They (the suspects) were not hooded," he said.

Raty told Finnish public broadcaster YLE earlier that "the victims were lying on the ground and they were shot one by one."

Iraq says 1 700 cadets were executed in 2014 at the Speicher military base in Tikrit
Iraq says 1,700 cadets were executed in 2014 at the Speicher military base in Tikrit
Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/File

He would not comment on why the Iraqi brothers had come to Finland in September, but Finnish media reported they had been staying at a reception centre for asylum seekers in the southwestern town of Forssa where they were arrested on Tuesday.

Other asylum seekers at the centre told tabloid Ilta-Sanomat they had sensed something "odd" about the twins' behaviour.

"I saw them sit alone and they would not talk to anyone. I knew they were hiding something," a 38-year-old asylum seeker and lawyer who gave his name as Omar Mohamedi told the paper.

Another man claimed the twins, who are Sunni, viewed Shiite Muslims with disdain.

Finland's Interior Minister Petteri Orpo reiterated an earlier estimate by the country's Security Police that around 300 people in the country are known to have connections to "terrorist" groups abroad.

The NBI said the arrests were the result of close cooperation between the Security Police and local police forces who have been conducting asylum interviews with newly-arrived refugees.

"The crucial intelligence has come from within the country but we do seek to cooperate with foreign authorities on this case," Raty said, refusing to confirm whether police had been tipped off by an asylum seeker.

The prosecutor has until April 8 to press charges against the twins.

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