Down the hall, the aroma of Nescafé and cigarettes filled
a windowless room, where defense lawyers sat on couches, balancing stacks of paper on their laps. Most were staring at their phones; others sat in silence, arms crossed, eyes closed. In terrorism cases, lawyers are usually denied access to their clients until the hearing begins.
Shortly after ten o’clock, three judges in long black robes shuffled into Courtroom 2 and sat at the bench. Suhail Abdullah Sahar, a bald, middle-aged man with a thin, jowly face, sat in the center. There were twenty-one cases on his docket that day, sixteen related to terrorism. He quietly read out a name; a security officer shouted it down the hall to one of his colleagues, who shouted it to the guard, who shouted it into the cell. Out came a young man named Ahmed. A security officer led him to a wooden cage in the middle of the courtroom. Judge Sahar accused him of having joined ISIS in Qayyarah, a small town south of Mosul.
“Sir, I swear, I have never been to Qayyarah,” Ahmed said.
Sahar was skeptical. “I have a written confession here, with your thumbprint on it,” he said.
“Sir, I swear, I gave my thumbprint on a blank paper,” Ahmed replied. “And I was tortured by the security services.” Sahar listed Ahmed’s supposed jihadi associates; Ahmed denied knowing any of them.
“Enough evidence,” the prosecutor said. “I ask for a guilty verdict.”