A Paris court on Friday handed a 30-year prison sentence to an extremist for crimes committed in Syria between 2013 and 2015, including overseeing the execution of two prisoners while a senior figure in the Islamic State extremist group.Tyler Vilus, a 30 years-old Frenchman who converted to Islam and went abroad to fight for ISIS, was found guilty on all charges. According to AFP, Vilus was also accused of belonging to a terrorist group, heading a group of ISIS fighters and “aggravated murder.”
Public prosecutor, Guillaume Michelin, earlier asked the court for a life sentence, with no possibility of parole for 22 years.It’s France’s first successful prosecution of an Islamist militant for crimes committed in Syria.Tyler Vilus was arrested in Turkey five years ago as he prepared to catch a flight to Prague. Prosecutors told the court he wanted to lead the squad of gunmen and suicide bombers which attacked Paris in November 2015, but were unable to prove this.
The judges ruled the sentence carried a minimum 20 years in jail.”By not choosing a life sentence, the court decided to leave you a glimmer of hope for you to evolve,” chief judge Laurent Raviotsaid. Vilus, who converted to Islam aged 21, denied any link to the November 13, 2015 attacks but acknowledged for the first time that he left the Syrian battlefield to die with weapons in his hands.
“Deep down, I know that when I leave, I am going to die. It’s a path with no return,” he told the court, describing his emotions as he departed ISIS-held territory.The chief prosecutor told the court Vilus trained to kill in Syria so that he could slaughter those he saw as enemies in France, and in Europe in general.“Spilling the blood of non-believers for him brings jubilation.
”The prosecutor continued, adding that Vilus’ connections read like a “Who’s who” of French extremists abroad.Vilus had admitted to being in contact with the man French secret services believe is the mastermind of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
Michelin said Vilus “hasn’t changed one bit” since his time with ISIS.“All the steps in the accused’s journey are interlocked with the construction of the caliphate,” said the prosecutor, referring to the Islamist-ruled area that IS had at the time carved out in Syria and Iraq.
“It is your responsibility to put a definite end to the bloodshed,” he told the court.Vilus fought under the nom-de-guerre AbouHafs. With few witnesses to call on, the prosecution leaned heavily on videos that Daesh had disseminated online to attract new recruits.Although the prosecutors could not prove the Frenchman had killed people himself, they convinced the court he was part of an organised group which did. For the French law, the penalty is the same.
Among the prosecution’s evidence, one video published by Daesh’ media department in 2015, in which Vilus is clearly identifiable showed two
men -one belonging to the Free Syrian Army rebel fighters and the other a member of Bashar al-Assad’s army – forced to kneel in a street, in eastern Syria, before they are executedwith a bullet to the head.
Investigators believed Vilus was part of the “Al-Muhajireen” brigade, a squad that tortured and carried out summary executions, which he had denied. The Paris court also found that Vilus supervised the executions as a member of the religious police in the north-eastern Syrian town Ash Shaddadi, close to the Iraqi border.
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