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Alleged Islamic State member goes on trial in Germany for genocide of Yazidis

Iraqi man is accused of taking part in crimes against Yazidis, including killing of five-year-old girl
Al-J accused of chaining young girl to window of house where she lived with her mother, leading to her death (AFP)

An Iraqi man, believed to have been a member of the Islamic State (IS) group, has gone on trial in Germany for genocide, murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Yazidi religious minority.

The man, identified only as 27-year-old Taha al-J, also stands accused of killing a five-year-old girl, Rania, he purchased as a slave and chained in the hot sun to die of thirst.

Al-J's wife, a German woman named Jennifer W, has been on trial separately since last April on charges of murder, war crimes and membership in a terrorist organisation.

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Al-J's case is expected to last until August and is being conducted in Frankfurt under heavy police guard.

The Yazidis were specifically targeted and oppressed by IS when the armed group invaded Iraq's Sinjar region.

Girls were forced into slavery and human trafficking rings, boys were forced to fight for the group, while men were executed if they didn't convert to Islam – or often executed in any case.

Rania's mother, identified only by her first name, has repeatedly testified in Munich about the torment her child had endured.

German prosecutors allege that after al-J joined the IS group in March 2013, he bought the mother and daughter after they were kidnapped in the summer of 2014.

"They were not allowed to leave the house unaccompanied. He forced them to wear a full veil, and did not accept the child's name because it was a name of the infidel," chief prosecutor Anna Zadeck said on Friday.

Genocide claims

After a string of such abuses, al-J chained the young girl to the window of a house where she lived with her mother as "punishment" for having wet the bed, according to prosecutors.

She died of thirst after suffering in harsh temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

Al-J was arrested in Greece in May 2019, before being extradited to Germany in October, where he has since been held in pre-trial custody.

'Both were regularly beaten. The woman has suffered pain in her shoulder ever since. The child once had to stay in bed for four days after being beaten'

- Anna Zadeck, chief prosecutor

No pleas are entered in the German system and Al-J declined to give any opening comment to the panel of judges hearing the case other than to confirm his identity as the trial opened.

According to legal expert Alexander Schwarz, in order to prove that genocide took place, prosecutors will need to show explicit will from Al-J's side to destroy the Yazidis.

"There is often no order to wipe out" a group, Schwarz told AFP. "There are no written instructions where 'exterminate the Yazidi' appears."

According to the United Nations, the killings of 1,280 Yazidis and kidnappings of 6,400 more may have constituted genocide.