Socialist Worker

Battle over trial of British mercenary in Iraq

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2166

The case of Daniel Fitzsimons, a former British soldier facing the death penalty in Iraq, reveals a lot about the chaotic hell in which that country is mired.

Fitzsimons was in the Parachute Regiment, before spending a number of years working for the mercenary groups that have proliferated in the “new Iraq”.

The occupation has left a terrible legacy. Up to a million Iraqis have died, while Baghdad has become divided on sectarian lines.

The city has not been properly rebuilt since the “shock and awe” bombing that marked the 2003 invasion. It still lacks consistent power, infrastructure and jobs.

Despite the trumpeting of an end to hostilities, many Western companies rely on mercenaries for their “security”.

Fitzsimons is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. His father and step-mother said, “He is extremely poorly. He patently should not have been allowed to go to Iraq.”

US troops arrested him after the fatal shootings of Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare, two of his fellow ArmorGroup employees, inside Baghdad’s Green Zone on 9 August. An Iraqi worker was also wounded in the incident.

The Green Zone is the heavily guarded area of closed-off streets where occupation authorities live and work – trying to avoid the violence that Iraqis face every day.

Barrister Nick Wrack and case worker John Tipple went to Iraq last week to represent Fitzsimons. They narrowly escaped when bomb attacks in central Baghdad killed 95 people and injured over 500 on Wednesday of last week.

They are demanding that Fitzsimons is returned to Britain to face trial, as they believe that he cannot expect a fair trial in Iraq.

Fitzsimons blacked out before the killings and cannot remember what happened. He received a heavy beating between blacking out and being arrested.

He is now sharing a cell with 11 other people and faces trial under Iraqi law, which would mean that he could face the death penalty if found guilty.

Invasion

John Tipple told Socialist Worker, “There is no way that a fair trial can take place in Iraq.

“We fear that Daniel will be scapegoated for the decision made by Tony Blair to make Britain a key part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“Daniel spent eight years in the Parachute Regiment. He was diagnosed with adjustment disorder after seeing horrors in Bosnia and Kosovo.

“After he left the army he had a few brushes with the law, and his situation began to deteriorate when he became a private security contractor.

“The British government has abandoned its duty of care towards soldiers. When they return from war zones, often brutalised by their experiences, they are left to their own devices.

“That is why there are a disproportionate number of soldiers in the prison system, with mental health problems or homeless. They are victims of war as well as the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We spoke to a number of Iraqis about the situation. The US and the multinationals still run the place. There is bewilderment and anger among the people as corruption is everywhere.

“Because of the lack of security there is little freedom of movement. High unemployment is driving people to crime and violence.

“I had never seen anything like the aftermath of the bomb attack. The crater was huge and the damage incredible.

“There are walls dividing the city and major checkpoints everywhere you go, and still people got a bomb into the heart of the capital.”


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