Retrial of Hassan killer adjourned over missing defendant

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The retrial of an Iraqi man convicted of killing British aid worker Margaret Hassan was adjourned again on Thursday because the imprisoned defendant could not be found, a court official said.

"The trial was postponed until August 22 because the defendant could not be found," said a judicial official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi was jailed after being sentenced to life in prison on June 2 last year, but earlier this month a lawyer for Hassan's family said that a senior prison official had told a judge that Jassar's whereabouts were unknown.

Hassan's kidnap and murder, one of the most high-profile killings to follow the US-led invasion of 2003, had sparked international revulsion and widespread sympathy.

Lawyers for Jassar have claimed that an alleged confession put before the court of first instance was extracted under torture.

His retrial had originally been scheduled to begin in April, but has repeatedly been delayed.

Britain has voiced concern over the apparent disappearance of Jassar in a telephone conversation between British Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari.

Dublin-born Hassan, whose body has never been found, had lived in Iraq for 30 years when she was taken hostage in October 2004 and shot a month later.

The 59-year-old was head of operations in Iraq for the humanitarian group Care International for around 12 years before she was pulled from her car by men in police uniform as she was being driven to work.

© 2010 AFP

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