Iraqi jailed over kidnap and murder of Margaret Hassan

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The Independent Online

An Iraqi man was jailed for life today for the kidnapping and murder of aid worker Margaret Hassan.



Mrs Hassan, 59, the director of humanitarian group Care International in Iraq, was taken hostage on her way to work in Baghdad in October 2004 and shot dead just under a month later.

Ali Lutfi Jassar was given a life sentence at Baghdad's Central Criminal Court today for his part in her abduction and murder and for attempting to blackmail her relatives.

The aid worker's family welcomed the court's decision, but appealed to Jassar to tell them where her body is so they can bring her back to Britain.

They said in a statement: "We are content that this man has been found guilty.

"However, he has still not revealed the whereabouts of Margaret's remains, which would enable us to bury her with the respect she deserves."

Jassar, 36, a Sunni architect from Baghdad also known as Abu Rasha, pleaded not guilty to the charges but was convicted after a one-day trial.

He was arrested by Iraqi and US forces last year after contacting the British Embassy in Baghdad and attempting to extort 1 million dollars in return for leading them to Mrs Hassan's body.

In his communications with Embassy officials, he mentioned an intimate detail about the aid worker that only her closest relatives and friends knew.

Jassar claimed in court today that he had been forced to sign statements confessing to the charges after being beaten and given electrical shocks during questioning.

"I have nothing to do with Hassan's abduction and I did not see or talk to her," he said.

Under Iraqi law, Jassar will have an automatic right to appeal against his conviction.

Mrs Hassan was one of the highest-profile figures to fall victim to the wave of kidnappings which swept Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion.

The Dublin-born Roman Catholic, who had joint British, Iraqi and Irish nationality, was married to an Iraqi and had lived in Iraq for 30 years.

Her family has spent the past four-and-a-half years trying to discover where her remains are so she can be brought back to Britain.

Mrs Hassan's sister, Deirdre Fitzsimons, said: "We want to ensure she gets buried with the respect she deserves because she has not been treated with respect.

"My sister was a Catholic and it would be her wish to have a proper Christian burial.

"However much she loved Iraq, she always wanted to be buried in this country. That is what we want to do for her."

Jassar was the second person to be brought to justice over Mrs Hassan's abduction and murder.

Mustafa Mohammed Salman al-Jabouri was given a life sentence by a Baghdad court in June 2006 after being convicted of aiding and abetting the abductors. His sentence was later reduced on appeal.

Mrs Hassan's family has been told that three leading members of the kidnap gang who fled Iraq will be tried in their absence.

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