Monday, February 28, 2011

Danny Fitzsimons receives life sentence in Iraq

At the start of last week, British Iraq War veteran Danny Fitzsimons was supposed to learn the verdict in his case. Instead he remained imprisoned awaiting the news. It came today and he's been found guilty. Danny served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as Iraq. He returned to Iraq in the fall of 2009 as a British contractor, or mercenary, accused of being the shooter in a Sunday, August 9, 2009 Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. The Manchester Evening News reported last week, "Danny Fitzsimons could be hanged if found guilty of double murder at an Iraqi hearing tomorrow. His father, Eric, of Whitworth, and younger brother Michael are to visit him in prison in Baghdad before the verdict is delivered." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that Danny's been sentenced to life in prison -- in Iraq. His father and step-mother had hoped that, if convicted, Danny could serve in a British prison. Terri Judd (Independent) did a profile on Danny and his family before they learned the verdict:

What happened that night remains a matter of angry debate. Fitzsimons claims he was acting in self-defence, a statement strenuously denied by the relatives of the men who lost their lives.
What is not open for debate is that the case is an inflammatory one – the first westerner to go on trial since the start of the war in Iraq. It happened just months after security firms – who had poured into the country in the post-conflict confusion – lost immunity. For the Iraqis, it was an opportunity to clamp down on the guards, despised by many particularly since a group of American contractors from Blackwater opened fire on civilians in 2007, killing 14 and wounding 20.
G4S, a company with a £7bn turnover in 2009 and competing for multi-million dollar contracts in Iraq, swiftly sacked Fitzsimons but insisted it was observing its duty of care by providing him with meals and contributing towards his legal costs.
The Fitzsimons family, who are from Manchester, did not even know Danny had flown out to Baghdad, and the matter has been a desperate fight to try to get him brought back to face justice in Britain. They remain adamant that he had such severe mental health problems that he should never have been employed by ArmorGroup.
But the family's campaign to see him brought back to the UK has been met with a brick wall from the British Government. Eric Fitzsimons's requests to see his son in Baghdad were refused by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which insisted the situation in the Iraqi capital was too dangerous, and G4S said it feared offending the families of the dead men. The multi-billion pound giant eventually capitulated and agreed to contribute £9,000 towards the trip.

Tafeeq notes, "Salam Abdulkarim, who represents the families of the victims, said Fitzsimons had committed an ugly crime and according to Iraqi law, he should get the most extreme punishment." The Manchester Evening News quotes Danny's Iraq attorney Tariq Harb stating, "This is a very good sentence. I saved him from the gallows." And the paper adds, "Fitzsimons now has 30 days to appeal, which Mr Harb said he would do. Last week, Fitzsimons' British lawyer John Tripple said the family and British authorities were trying to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government to have Fitzsimons transferred to a British prison if he was not given the death penalty."

Turning to the US, Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues.


(Troy Yocum photo taken by John Crosby)

Brandon Richards (KPLC-TV) reports on Troy's arrival in Iowa Sunday and quotes him discussing why he started his march for awareness, a friend of his, a veteran who was struggling, "He had a really hard time taking care of his family. He reached out to me in this email, very depressed and suicidal and I thought 'I can't let this happen to my friend'." Richards notes that today Troy hikes from Iowa to Jennings.

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Radiohead, I'm going to need a cigarette" went up Sunday morning. Today on Law and Disorder Radio (begins broadcasting at 9:00 am EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week), Michael Ratner, Heidi Boghosian and Michael S. Smith speak with Chris Hedges about his latest book s Death of the Liberal Class., with Rick Wolff about the economy and they have an update regarding Bradley Manning.

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