* Retrial repeatedly postponed
* Eventually court may rule in absentia
BAGHDAD, Aug 22 (Reuters) - An Iraqi convicted of the 2004 murder of British aid worker Margaret Hassan escaped from prison almost a year ago and has disappeared, an Iraqi justice official said on Sunday.
Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi was sentenced in June last year for the murder of CARE international’s director in Iraq, whose kidnapping in the chaotic and violent aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion led to protests demanding her release.
Rawi was sentenced to life in prison and his lawyer appealed. But the Iraqi prison authorities have been unable to find the defendant in order to bring him to court and his retrial has been repeatedly postponed as a result.
"Rawi’s disappearance was confirmed 20 days ago when an investigation concluded into his case. We discovered that he had escaped from Abu Ghraib prison on Sept. 9, 2009," Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim told Reuters.
The latest date for the retrial to start had been Sunday but Abdul Sattar Birqdar, the spokesman of the Supreme Judicial Council, said the session had been pushed back until Sept. 19.
"The court may adjourn the trail again and again until they reach a point at which they decide it is impossible to bring him before the court," said Ramzi Mohammed, a lawyer for Hassan’s Iraqi husband.
"At that point the court will release a verdict in absentia," Mohammed said. (Reporting by Waleed Ibrahim; Editing by Michael Christie and Ralph Boulton)