Former Iraqi soldier in German court for war crimes
BERLIN - A Berlin court on Wednesday began hearing a case against a former Iraqi soldier charged with war crimes after he allegedly posed for photographs with the severed heads of two IS jihadists.
The 28-year-old, identified by the court as Rami K., was photographed in March 2015 holding the severed heads by their hair.
The accused was then a soldier in the Iraqi army, and the picture, taken near the city of Tikrit -- about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad, has been widely circulated on the internet.
The man subsequently fled to Germany in 2015, seeking refuge along with a record influx of asylum seekers in Europe's biggest economy.
But he was arrested in August 2016 and placed under provisional detention.
According to prosecutors, he posed for the photo in order to "humiliate the dead".
"He is therefore liable for two counts of war crimes," said the prosecution.
The former soldier said during the investigation that he was simply following orders and that he had feared that to refuse would mean losing the respect of his unit.
In court on Wednesday, he said through an interpreter: "Had I refused to follow this order, the penalty would have been execution".