2 Mar 2018 14:50

Over 20 Russian-speaking women, some 50 children who may be Russian citizens being held in Iraqi prison - Russian Foreign Ministry

MOSCOW. March 2 (Interfax) - Twenty-two Russian-speaking women and 49 children believed to be Russian citizens are currently being held in an Iraqi prison, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a press briefing on Friday.

"The information available indicates that 22 Russian-speaking women and 49 children who, presumably, may be citizens of the Russian Federation are now being held in one of Baghdad's prisons along with women and children from other countries," she said.

Diplomats are currently unable to communicate with these citizens, she said.

"After the investigation is over, the Iraqi authorities plan to hold court proceedings into the cases of the wives and widows of foreign fighters of ISIL [banned in Russia]. There could be women with Russian citizenship among them," Zakharova said.

These people could be accused of involvement and complicity in terrorist activities, she said.

"If their guilt is considered proven, they may face the death penalty, a life sentence, or quite lengthy prison terms. Iraq's law on the fight against terrorism is exceptionally harsh, and people involved in ISIL crimes in the territory of Iraq can hardly expect mercy," Zakharova said.

If these women are confirmed to be Russian citizens, the Russian embassy in Baghdad will help organize their legal defense and help them file appeals if they receive severe sentences, she said.