Briton appears in Iraqi court over killings

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The Independent Online

A British security contractor accused of shooting two colleagues to death made an initial appearance in an Iraqi court, a step to determine if there is sufficient evidence to charge him with murder, Iraqi and British officials said today.

The contractor could be the first Westerner to face an Iraqi trial on murder charges since a security pact lifted the immunity that foreign contractors had for most of the war.

Yesterday Danny Fitzsimons appeared briefly in a Baghdad court, where a judge requested autopsy results of the two victims, said Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar, a court spokesman.

"If there is evidence, the case will be transferred to an Iraqi court for an official charge," Bayrkdar said.

Fitzsimons remained in Iraqi custody today at a Baghdad police station, he said.

British consular officials also met with Fitzsimons and provided him with a list of attorneys, said British Embassy spokesman Jawwad Syed.

Fitzsimons and the two victims worked for British security firm ArmorGroup Iraq.

A US-Iraqi security pact that took effect Jan. 1 lifted the immunity that foreign contractors had in Iraq. The agreement to lift immunity followed a deadly September 2007 shooting in Baghdad involving another security firm, North Carolina-based Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe.

Fitzsimons is accused of shooting two colleagues, a Briton and an Australian, during a fight Sunday in Baghdad's protected Green Zone and then wounding an Iraqi while fleeing.

The shooting occurred in the compound operated by Research Triangle Institute, the headquarters of two U.S.-funded nonprofit groups — the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.

The dead have been identified as Paul McGuigan of Scotland and Darren Hoare of Australia.

ArmorGroup identified the wounded Iraqi as Arkhan Mahdi, an employee of the company. The security group says he was shot and wounded, and is recovering from his wounds in a hospital.

ArmorGroup described Mcguigan and Hoare as veteran security contractors.

McGuigan, 37, was a former British Royal Marine who went to work for ArmorGroup in 2003, according to a company statement. It said McGuigan was working as a team leader in charge of a personal security detail.

ArmorGroup said McGuigan was married and his wife was expecting a child.

Hoare, 37, from Queensland, Australia, worked for the security company for more than four years, primarily on personal security details, ArmorGroup said. Prior to joining the company, Hoare served in the Royal Australian Air Force, which included a deployment to Iraq, the statement said.

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