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Dutch arrest alleged commander of Syrian Islamist group

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Dutch police this week arrested a 29-year-old Syrian alleged former commander of the Ahrar al-Sham Islamist insurgent group on suspicion of having committed war crimes, the public prosecutor’s office said on Friday.

Police arrested the unnamed man on Tuesday in a center for asylum seekers in the north of the country. He is accused of war crimes for posing with the body of an enemy fighter and kicking at another corpse during fighting in Hama in 2015.

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According to the prosecutor’s office, the suspect was at the time “a commander of the terrorist organization Ahrar al-Sham”.

The suspect presented himself at the Dutch asylum seekers’ center earlier this month, but had already been flagged by German authorities after briefly registering as an asylum seeker there in 2015. Following his arrest on Tuesday a judge ordered his custody extended by two weeks on Friday.

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According to Dutch prosecutors the suspect can also be seen in a YouTube video singing to celebrate the deaths of the fighters and “referring to them as dogs”.

Under Dutch law his alleged actions are violations of the personal dignity of war victims. Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions they can be prosecuted in the Netherlands even if they occur in other countries under universal jurisdiction laws. If convicted the suspect could face a life sentence.

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(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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