British guard pleads self-defence in Iraq trial

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

Danny Fitzsimons, 30, 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 court report that said the defendant suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He also did this under the influence of alcohol. I ask you, judge, to lighten his sentence."

In comments translated to the court into Arabic, Fitzsimons, 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.

Upon 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 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, threatening to kill him.

According to Fitzsimons, McGuigan used threatening and 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 tussle with Hoare, Fitzsimons recalled firing two or three rounds into the Australian's body.

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.

Asked by the judge whether he had anything further to say, Fitzsimons said, in remarks that were not translated into Arabic for the judge by the court-appointed translator: "I don't believe this is a fair trial."

He also entered a plea of not guilty.

The trial was adjourned until February 20 as the court sought clarification over his psychiatric report, Harb said.

© 2011 AFP

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