BAGHDAD – An Iraqi judge on Sunday delayed the verdict in the case of a British man accused of murdering two contractors in Baghdad while the court studies his claim to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Danny Fitzsimons has said that he is innocent of murder in the 2009 shooting. He said he was acting in self-defense when he shot two co-workers, claiming they threatened to kill him after a drunken brawl in Baghdad's Green Zone.
Fitzsimons, 30, is the first Westerner to be tried by an Iraqi court since the start of the Iraq war nearly eight years ago. He is charged with two counts of murder for shooting a British and an Australian contractor he worked with and with attempting to kill an Iraqi guard. He could receive the death penalty if convicted of murder.
Fitzsimons' father and brother attended Sunday's session in a Baghdad court and said they had been able to meet with their son the day before for the first time since he was arrested.
"We spent about five hours talking about old times because we missed him for a few years," his father, Eric, told The Associated Press while sitting along with his younger son, Michael, on a wooden bench outside the courtroom.
Fitzsimons' father, a 62-year old school teacher from Manchester, said his son Danny was "in good shape" and "talking properly" but his mental state "is not good."
"He does have problems ... he's an ill boy," he said. "I hope he comes back home."
If Fitzsimons is not given the death penalty, the family and British authorities are trying to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government to have him transferred to a British prison after the verdict, said Fitzsimons' British lawyer, John Tripple.
"At the moment he's being treated properly, but we are concerned," Tripple said. "We hope that the verdict will be positive for Danny to be able to return to the U.K. for his medical treatment ... he needs that treatment."
The judges are expected to issue a verdict Feb. 28.
During a January court session, Fitzsimons described a dramatic scene in which he said he shot both of the men in the chest after a violent struggle.
The British contractor then fled the scene covered in blood and tried to make it to the British Embassy; an Iraqi security guard who'd heard the altercation pointed his Kalashnikov rifle at Fitzsimons and told him to stop. The Brit then shot the Iraqi guard in his left thigh.
A U.S.-Iraqi security pact that took effect Jan. 1, 2009, lifted immunity for foreign contractors, an important development for Iraqis who viewed the security contractors operating in Iraq as reckless and acting with impunity.
A September 2007 shooting in Baghdad involving another security firm, the North Carolina-based Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe, left 17 Iraqi civilians dead and galvanized Iraqi authorities to push to lift the immunity.