Middle East
Briton jailed in Iraq for killings
British man spared death penalty but jailed for 20 years by Iraqi court for killing two fellow contractors in 2009.
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2011 13:27 GMT
Danny Fitzsimons, centre, arrives at a Baghdad court under Iraqi police escort on February 28, 2011 [AFP]

An Iraqi court has sentenced a British man to 20 years in prison for shooting dead two contractors, making him the first Westerner convicted in an Iraqi court since the 2003 US-led invasion.

Danny Fitzsimons  was found guilty on Monday for the fatal shootings in 2009 of a British and Australian contractor who worked with him as well as attempting to kill an Iraqi guard.

Fitzsimons, who had been facing the death penalty, told the Associated Press as he was being led from the courtroom by Iraqi guards on Monday that he was happy with the sentence.

But when asked whether he thought the trial was fair, he said: "No."

The former security contractor from the town of Rochdale in the UK admitted to shooting the men but claimed it was self-defence.

The men had been out drinking and the other two tried to kill him during an altercation, Fitzsimons said during previous testimony. He also claimed to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In handing down the verdict, the head judge of the three-judge panel said Fitzsimons' mental condition was taken into consideration when deciding on the sentence.

"Danny Fitzsimons, the court has found established evidence that you killed the two slain men and attempted to kill the third,'' the judge said.

"So the court issues its sentence according to ... the Iraqi criminal code and sentences you to 20 years in prison."

Fitzsimons was accompanied by Tariq Harb, his Iraqi lawyer.

'Good sentence'

"This is a very good sentence. I saved him from the gallows,'' Harb told reporters after the hearing.

Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said Fitzsimons' family was relieved he hadn't been sentenced to death.

Last week, John Tripple, Fitzsimons' British lawyer, said the family and the UK authorities were trying to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government to have Fitzsimons transferred to a British prison if sentenced to jail.

Harb said that could be possible since the "relations between the two countries are strong now and diplomacy can bear remarkable influence".

A US-Iraqi security pact that took effect in early 2009, lifted immunity for foreign contractors, an important development for Iraqis who criticised some security contractors operating in Iraq as reckless and acting with impunity.

A September 2007 shooting in Baghdad involving another security firm, the North Carolina-based Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe, left at least 17 people dead. 

Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.