Monday 26 June 2017

Retrial dims hopes of finding aid worker's body

Sam Marsden in Baghdad

THE family of murdered Irish aid worker Margaret Hassan has voiced fears that the only person jailed for her killing could walk free after a retrial today.

This would dash their hopes of finding her body so they can bring her back to Britain for a dignified Christian burial.

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

Iraqi architect Ali Lutfi Jassar was jailed for life at Baghdad's Central Criminal Court last year for his part in her abduction and murder and for attempting to blackmail her relatives.



SENTENCE

But in November he was granted the right to a retrial, and Mrs Hassan's family fears he could now have his sentence cut or even be released.

The aid worker's sister, Deirdre Manchanda, said: "We want Ali Lutfi Jassar to stay in prison because we are convinced he was definitely part of the kidnap gang because he knew too much to have got it from the internet or any other source.

"He has claimed many, many times in these transcripts to know where Margaret's remains are," she said.

"We want to find our sister's remains because we want to bring her home to be buried and we want justice for her.

"It's not just justice for Margaret. It's justice for everybody.

"Apart from anything else, a terrorist murderer should not be on the streets of Baghdad."

Jassar was arrested by Iraqi and US forces in 2008 after contacting the British embassy in Baghdad and attempting to extort $1m (€740,000) 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 would know.

Jassar, an English-speaking Sunni from Baghdad who called himself Abu Rasha, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He claimed in court last June that he had been forced to confess 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.

His retrial is set to take place at the Central Criminal Court in Baghdad today. Mrs Manchanda said: "It has been a very long battle. . . We have dedicated five-and-a-half years of our lives to try and find my sister's remains. We want them back."

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

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