Contractor gets life sentence in Iraq

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The Independent Online

The family of Danny Fitzsimons said yesterday they feared he would kill himself after the security contractor was given a life sentence by an Iraqi court.

In the case of the first Westerner to be tried since the beginning of the war in 2003, the 30-year-old Briton was found guilty of murdering his ArmorGroup colleagues Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare in August 2009, as well as attempting to murder an Iraqi, Arkhan Mahdi.

In handing down the verdict in Baghdad yesterday, the head of the three-judge panel said Fitzsimons's mental condition was considered when deciding the sentence but found he killed the two men and tried to kill the third: "So the court issues its sentence according to... the Iraqi criminal code and sentences you to 20 years in prison."

The former security contractor admitted shooting the men but claimed it was in self-defence. Last night his stepmother, Liz Fitzsimons, said the family was relieved that he had not been given the death penalty but still had serious concerns about where he would be transferred from the police cell in the International Zone, where he has been held for the past 18 months.

"Danny, for the last few weeks, has been constantly saying he cannot end up in Rusafa jail, which is the main jail out there. He said, 'I will be a dead man if they put me in there'," she said. "We really are concerned that wherever he does end up he is safe. He has also said that if they talk about putting him in Rusafa jail he will take his own life first."

The prosecution and defence both are expected to appeal within 30 days and the former could still call for Fitzsimons's execution. Tariq Harb, Fitzsimons's lawyer, said he would appeal, but added: "This is a very good sentence. I saved him from the gallows."

Fitzsimons's family has said he should never have been a contractor because he was mentally ill and suffering from post-traumatic stress.