Iraqi lawyer defending ex-soldier fails in bid to visit client's UK family

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The Independent Online

An Iraqi lawyer due to defend the first British man to face a murder trial in the country cannot get a visa to visit his client’s family in the UK.

Daniel Fitzsimons, a former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, is due back in court in Baghdad tomorrow accused of murdering two fellow ArmorGroup security contractors. His family have been fighting to help him, convinced that the ill 29-year-old will not get a fair trial in Iraq and could face the death penalty if found guilty.

Tonight his step-mother Liz Fitzsimons said they hoped the case would be adjourned pending psychiatric reports, insisting it would be a nightmare if the Iraqis chose to proceed at this time.

“We are sick with worry. I have been on the phone every day and we are all exhausted. I feel like it is a constant battle,” she said.

The family had been hoping that his Iraqi lawyer Tareq Harb would be able to visit them in the UK this week but he failed to get a visa in time.

Mr Fitzsimons’s legal caseworker, John Tipple, said: “We desperately want to be able to speak to Mr Harb face to face. It is very important that he gets a chance to liaise with us and Reprieve [the human rights charity]. The fact he can’t get over here is indicative of our feelings that there is no way we are going to get justice.”

The trial was initially postponed in November after Baghdad’s Justice Ministry main complex was destroyed in bombings. Mr Fitzsimons, who served with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and Parachute Regiment before becoming a private security guard, is accused of shooting dead Scotsman Paul McGuigan and Australian Darren Hoare, both 37, and wounding Iraqi Arkhan Mahdi. Mr Tipple said he hoped the case would be adjourned until the new year, awaiting the medical evidence.

ArmorGroup employed Mr Fitzsimons despite a history of mental health problems, the fact he was awaiting trial for assault in the UK and he had been sacked from other security firms. ArmorGroup dismissed him for gross misconduct in September but promised to honour its duty of care to the young man.

Mrs Fitzsimons said she was worried that they were not providing enough food for him, a duty taken on by friends and relatives in Iraqi prisons, and that he had been confined to his cell for four months. The Brit is being held by the Iraqis within the international Green Zone.

“He has his ups and downs. He keeps getting flashbacks and the paranoia keeps coming back. He is struggling because he is not allowed out of his cell to get any exercise,” added the teacher from Manchester.

The family, who are being supported by their MP Jim Dobbin as well as Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve, want him brought home for trial.

The Iraqis have clamped down on the many foreign security contractors in Baghdad since their immunity was lifted in January this year.