Hearing today for Danny Fitzsimons, British ex-soldier facing execution: adjourned until 13th June

April 7, 2010

 A Baghdad court was due to hear witness testimony today in the trial of Manchester-born private security worker Danny Fitzsimons. The hearing was adjourned to allow Danny to be tested by the Psychiatric Medical Committee in Al Rashad Mental Hospital.

Danny is facing execution in Iraq after being arrested on suspicion of killing two men in Baghdad. It now appears that Danny has serious mental health problems and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his years of service with the British army, and his work as a private security contractor in Iraq.

Danny’s case is extremely serious; he faces a trial where the death penalty can be automatic. If convicted he faces death by hanging within a year. His Iraqi lawyer, Tareq Harb, travelled to London in March to ask the British government for help in fighting the case.

Danny Fitzsimons said:

“I miss my family very much but I’m grateful for the support I have been getting from home, particularly from my former comrades who know a bit about what we all went through. I know that this has been a tragedy and hurt a lot of people besides myself.”

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674 or go to www.reprieve.org.uk/dannyfitzsimons

Notes for Editors:

CASE BACKGROUND

Danny had always wanted to join the army. He joined the Royal Fusiliers at the first opportunity, aged just 16, and was sent on his first tour shortly after his 18th birthday. The letters he sent to his family show a young man that was living his dream, as they boast about his training regime and how many press ups he could do. 

However, whilst on his first tour, to the former Yugoslavia, Danny experienced some extremely disturbing events as his unit began to uncover mass graves. Danny also discovered the dismembered body of a child who had delivered the troops bread.

Upon leaving the army, Danny started to work as a private security contractor in Iraq, where he continued to witness very traumatic events, including the death of a close friend: “The truck in front of him in his convoy was hit by an IED.

The plastic doors of the truck sealed shut in the heat, and one of his team was shut inside. His friend screamed for Danny to get him out, but Danny could not break the window of the truck as it was bulletproof glass. He was forced to watch his friend burn inside the truck unable to help.”

Danny was diagnosed as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and in May 2008 he was told that PTSD was: “having an impact on his day to day life and he use[d] drugs and alcohol to combat that and escape from those experiences.”

Despite this, in 2009 Danny was hired by ArmourGroup in August and sent out to Iraq without conducting a full medical assessment.

This despite Human Resources Director, Christopher Beese stating in September 2004: “It seems extraordinary that the doorman of a night club … may have to be vetted and licensed while the same man can be equipped with a rifle, an armoured vehicle and be engaged to protect diamond concessions for a foreign regime in a clear breach of the public interest and perhaps even in contravention of human rights [but he] needs no such regulation.”

Within 36 hours of his arrival, the incident took place which saw Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare die. 

Armour Group have since been taken over by G4S, a multinational group with a turnover of $9.504 billion that saw its 2008 profits rise by 22%. The company has been mired in controversy following the disclosure of bizarre hazing and drunkenness at the Embassy in Kabul. 

G4S have tried to wash their hands of Danny with a payment of $75,000 towards his legal fees. However, the nature of a capital trial and the added difficulties of the situation in Iraq mean that a proper defence would cost $1.8 million – amounting to 0.0002% of G4S’s annual turnover. Their offer of $75,000 works out at just 0.000008% of turnover.

REPRIEVE

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA. 

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

ReprievePO Box 52742London EC4P 4WSTel: 020 7353 4640Fax: 020 7353 4641Email: info@reprieve.org.ukWebsite: www.reprieve.org.uk

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