World News

Iraqi sentenced for kidnap, killing of aid worker

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison for the kidnapping and murder of British-Iraqi aid worker Margaret Hassan 4-1/2 years ago, lawyers said.

File photo of Margaret Hassan, the British-Iraqi head of Care International's operations in Iraq. An Iraqi was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison for the kidnapping and murder of Hassan 4-1/2 years ago, lawyers said. REUTERS/CARE/Handout

Ali Lutfi Jassar, 26, was charged with kidnapping, extortion and murder. “(He got) life in prison,” Jassar’s lawyer said, declining to make any further comment.

Salah al-Shammari, a lawyer for a co-defendant, said Jassar admitted he and a group of Sunni Islamists kidnapped Hassan, murdered her in a Baghdad soccer field and then tried to extort $1 million from the British embassy in return for her corpse.

Another lawyer, Ramzi Mahmoud, who represents Hassan’s family, said Jassar later retracted his confession. “His role in the case was translating for Margaret,” Mahmoud said.

Hassan, who had lived in Iraq for more than three decades after marrying an Iraqi engineer, was head of the Iraqi operation of the CARE International charity.

She was abducted in Baghdad in October 2004 and killed about a month later, after appealing in video messages made by her abductors for British forces to withdraw from Iraq.

Scores of foreign civilians have been kidnapped in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Most have been released, sometimes after the payment of ransom. Many have been killed, particularly in 2004 when Sunni insurgents filmed gruesome videos of beheadings in an attempt to persuade Western countries to withdraw troops or aid workers.

At least 94 aid workers have been killed since 2003 and most aid agencies left Iraq long ago.

Jassar was not the first person convicted for the murder of Hassan. A court in 2006 sentenced an accomplice, Mustafa Salman, to life in prison.

Shammari said Salman’s sentence was reduced to five years on appeal because the judges decided he had only known about the kidnapping and murder, and had not actually participated. Salman was released under a broad amnesty in 2007.

Additional reporting by Khalid al-Ansary