ISIS terror convicts forced to face victims on Iraqi TV show

The confessions of convicted terrorists are being broadcast on an Iraqi reality TV show in which they are also forced to face the relatives of victims. 

"In the Grip of the Law" — produced by the state-run Al Iraqiya channel in cooperation with the Iraqi ministry of interior — is part of a concerted media effort to attack the jihadist group ISIS and garner public support for the Iraqi forces. 

Every Friday the show's host Ahmed Hassan, who has reportedly become a target himself, quizzes convicted terrorists who remain in shackles and bright yellow prison jumpsuits for the show's duration. 

The relatives of victims of terrorist attacks are then brought before the prisoners, often either in a rage or on the verge of tears.

One of the men to feature on the programme is 21-year old Haider Ali Motar, convicted one month ago for helping to carry out a string of Baghdad car bombings on behalf of ISIS.

 This photo uploaded on a jihadist website shows ISIS members carrying out summary executions of Iraqis suspected to be soldiers of the country's army, near Mosul, Iraq. 

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The crew began filming at the scene of one of the attacks for which Motar was convicted, with a sizeable military escort in tow. Soldiers shooed away interested bystanders and drivers frustrated by the consequent traffic. 

After being pulled from an armoured vehicle, a shackled Motar found himself face-to-face with the seething relatives of the victims of the attack. "Give him to me — I'll tear him to pieces," one of the relatives roared from behind a barbed wire barrier.

A cameraman pinned a microphone on Motar's bright yellow prison jumpsuit as he stood alongside a busy Baghdad highway looking bewildered by his surroundings.

"Say something," the cameraman said to him. 

"What am I supposed to say?" a visibly panicked Motar asked. 

"It's a mic check! Just count: 1,2,3,4 ..." 

Host Hassan quizzed Motar, before bringing out one of the victims, a young man in a wheelchair who lost his father in one of the attacks; the convict began weeping, as the cameras rolled.

 Iraq has seen near-daily car bombs and other attacks for more than a decade, both before and after the withdrawal of US-led troops at the end of 2011. But the central message of the show, the filming of which began last year, is that the security forces will bring perpetrators to justice. 

The episodes often detail the trail of evidence that led security forces to make the arrest. Police allow the camera crew to film the evidence — explosive belts, bomb-making equipment or fingerprints and other DNA samples. 

Hassan told The AP: "We wanted to produce a program that offers clear and conclusive evidence, with the complete story, presented and shown to Iraqi audiences.

"Through surveillance videos, we show how the accused parked the car, how he blew it up, how he carries out an assassination. 

"We show our audiences the pictures, along with hard evidence, to leave no doubts that this person is a criminal and paying for his crimes."

 Ezidi women seen fleeing their village following the killing of hundreds of Yazidi men and abduction of women and girls for slavery. 

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All of the alleged terrorists are shown confessing to their crimes in one-on-one interviews. Hassan said the episodes are only filmed after the men have confessed to a judge, insisting it is "impossible" that any of them are innocent. 

"The court first takes a preliminary testimony and then they require a legal confession in front of a judge," Hassan explained. "After obtaining the security and legal permission, we are then allowed to film those terrorists." 

Human rights groups have long expressed concern over the airing of confessions by prisoners, many of whom have been held incommunicado in secret facilities. 

"The justice system is so flawed and the rights of detainees, especially those accused of terrorism (but not only) are so routinely violated that it is virtually impossible to be confident that they would be able to speak freely," Donatella Rovera, of Amnesty International, told AP in an email. 

"In recent months, which I have spent in Iraq, virtually every family I have met who has a relative detained has complained that they do not have access to them, and the same is true for lawyers."

In a September statement, Amnesty cited longstanding concerns about the Iraqi justice system, "where many accused of terrorism have been convicted and sentenced to long prison terms and even to death on the basis of 'confessions' extracted under torture." 

Such concerns are rarely if ever aired on Iraqi TV, where wall-to-wall programming exalts the security forces. Singers embedded with the troops sing nationalist songs during commercial breaks. In another popular program, called "The Quick Response," a traveling correspondent interviews soldiers, aiming to put a human face on the struggle against the extremists.

Iraqi forces backed by Shia and Kurdish militias, as well as US-led coalition air strikes, have clawed back some territory following the army's route last summer, when commanders disappeared, calls for reinforcements went unanswered and many soldiers stripped off their uniforms and fled. But around a third of the country — including its second largest city, Mosul — remains under the firm control of militants, and nearly every day brings new bombings in and around the capital. 

 

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