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22 February 2024

British guard pleads self-defence in Iraq trial


A British security guard accused of killing two colleagues in the Iraqi capital's Green Zone insisted at his trial on Sunday he acted in self-defence during an alcohol-fuelled brawl.

Danny Fitzsimons told Karkh criminal court in west Baghdad that the two men, fellow Briton Paul McGuigan and Australian national Darren Hoare, had burst into his room and pinned him down before pointing an M4 rifle at his face, prompting him to use his pistol to kill them.

"It was very clear that he acted in self-defence, and we also submit that he has psychiatric problems," Fitzsimons's Iraqi lawyer Tariq Harb told the court, referring to a report that said the defendant suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He also did this under the influence of alcohol," Harb added on the second day of the long-delayed trial, the first of a Westerner in an Iraqi criminal court since the 2003 US-led invasion. The trial had originally opened on December 31.

Fitzsimons submitted a plea of not guilty, and later said he did not "believe this is a fair trial," the only remarks of the trial that were not translated for the judge into Arabic.

The 30-year-old, who faces a maximum sentence of death if convicted, said he had returned to Iraq on August 8, 2009, to work as a private security guard with ArmorGroup, a British-based security firm.

On arrival, he was given an M4 rifle, a pistol and a bullet-proof vest which he set down in his room before meeting with an old friend he had made during a previous tour in Iraq, where he worked with three different firms before joining ArmorGroup.

Fitzsimons and his friend, another ArmorGroup security guard who was identified only as Kevin, bought two bottles of whiskey before settling in Kevin's trailer in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone to chat over drinks.

At a later point, a visibly drunk McGuigan entered the trailer and disparagingly referred to two of Fitzsimons's late friends, both killed in Iraq, as homosexuals, prompting Fitzsimons to punch him in the face.

The two, according to the defendant, shook hands to reconcile but continued to argue for the remainder of Fitzsimons's time in the trailer, prompting him to return to his own trailer and go to sleep.

At around 1:00 am, Fitzsimons said, McGuigan and Hoare burst into his trailer, with Hoare pinning him down while McGuigan began hitting him in the face with a sandal.

McGuigan then grabbed Fitzsimons's M4 and pointed it at his face.

According to Fitzsimons, McGuigan threatened to kill him and used crude language, which the court-appointed female interpreter refused to translate verbally, instead writing the words for the judge.

The defendant said that, at that point, he manoeuvred into a position to grab his pistol and fired two rounds into McGuigan's chest followed by a bullet into his face.

After a subsequent tussle with Hoare, Fitzsimons recalled firing two or three rounds at the Australian.
He then ran outside his trailer to call for help but when none came, decided to run to the British embassy, which is also located in the Green Zone.

He was then confronted by an Iraqi guard working for ArmorGroup, Arkaan Mehdi, who pointed his weapon at Fitzsimons. The defendant said he fired one round into Mehdi's leg to get him out of his way, and fled.
The defendant eventually surrendered after being surrounded by security officers, Baghdad security spokesman Brigadier General Qassim Atta said at the time.

The trial was adjourned until February 20 as the court sought clarification over Fitzsimons's psychiatric report, Harb said.
The evaluation said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder but added that he was aware of his actions and their consequences. The court asked for further clarity on the report.

A British foreign ministry spokeswoman said the office was "following this case closely and our staff at the embassy in Baghdad continue to provide consular assistance to Mr Fitzsimons."

She said that while the ministry was not able to interfere in Iraq's judicial processes, "we will make representations to the authorities should it become clear that there are concerns around the ongoing legal proceedings in comparison with internationally recognised standards or local procedure."