x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Iraqi court sentences first westerner since 2003

Danny Fitzsimons was convicted in the 2009 shooting deaths of two contractors, a Briton and an Australian, who worked with him, and with attempting to kill an Iraqi guard.

BAGHDAD // An Iraqi court has convicted a British man and sentenced him to 20 years for the shooting deaths of two contractors.

The conviction on Monday makes Danny Fitzsimons the first westerner to be convicted in an Iraqi court since the 2003 US-led invasion.

Fitzsimons was convicted in the 2009 shooting deaths of a British and Australian contractors who worked with him and with attempting to kill an Iraqi guard.

"The court finds that the evidence has determined that you committed the crime of killing and injuring. Now you are... sentenced to life in prison," said the judge, who can not be named.

Fitzsimons, who was wearing a black pinstripe suit with a light blue shirt and dark striped tie, did not visibly react when the court-appointed interpreter translated the sentence.

"This is a very good decision, and very good result - he has been saved from death," said Fitzsimons's Iraqi lawyer, Tariq Harb.

Mr Harb said that under Iraqi law, life in prison was equivalent to 20 years.

"But we have to send the appeal within days and we hope to get a further reduction," Mr Harb said.

Fitzsimons had insisted throughout his trial that he had acted in self-defence during an alcohol-fuelled brawl in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone in August 2009.

He told the Karkh criminal court in west Baghdad that fellow Briton Paul McGuigan and an Australian, Darren Hoare, had burst into his room and pinned him down before pointing an M4 rifle at his face, prompting him to use his pistol to kill them.

A US-Iraqi security pact that took effect Jan. 1, 2009, lifted immunity for foreign contractors, an important development for Iraqis who viewed the security contractors operating in Iraq as reckless and acting with impunity.

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse