ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – French jihadists who joined the Islamic State (IS) group and were captured in Syria can be tried at courts in the self-declared Kurdish autonomous region there, said France's Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet.
Speaking to Radio RMC on Thursday, Belloubet said local authorities in Syrian Kurdistan could "eventually proceed to trials," given the French nationals accused of terrorism were guaranteed access to a lawyer and if necessary consular services.
The announcement from Paris appeared to give the Kurdish-dominated "Democratic Federation of Northern Syria" a de facto diplomatic recognition, although the Minister highlighted that Syrian Kurdistan, also known as Rojava, was not a state recognized by her country.
Kurds in Syria hope to eventually attain the status of a self-ruling entity, similar to that of Kurdistan Region in Iraq, through negotiations and peace talks with the sides involved in the six years-long Syrian civil war.
Their quest has so far been rejected by the Syrian regime, opposition, neighboring countries, namely Turkey, and the global powers including the United States that backs Kurdish forces in Syria.
Russia though has appeared to give substantial support to the idea in UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, much to the dismay of Ankara in Astana meetings.
France has historically kept amiable relations with the Kurds in Iraq and those in Syria where it once had a colonial mandate in the first half of the past century.
There are several IS militants of French nationality held as prisoners of war at the hands of Kurdish authorities whose military forces, the US-supported People's Protection Units (YPG) has been at the forefront of the fight on the jihadists.
YPG is also backed by France which keeps a contingent of its special forces along with Americans at several bases in Rojava.
One particular IS member, Emilie Konig, a 33-year-old Muslim convert from France's northwestern Brittany region, who became a notorious recruiter, this week pleaded for repatriation, according to Liberation.
"We will take care of all the people who will come back on the French territory. However, we will not necessarily look for them where they are," said Belloubet, ruling out Konig's plea to be brought back.
If "in Syrian Kurdistan, there are judicial institutions that are able to ensure a fair trial with guaranteed rights of defense, they will be judged there," said a spokesperson for President Emmanuel Macron's administration Benjamin Griveaux, echoing the Justice Minister.
While other European countries, such as the Scandinavians one have come forward with proposals of "re-integrating" former Islamist fighters into the society, France, a victim of several deadly bombings and massacres in the past two years, has taken a hardline posture against them.
In late 2017 French intelligence services said about 700 French-national jihadists were fighting in Iraq and Syria.
Editing by Nadia Riva