Iraq court acquits 2 men accused of killing British soldiers

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[JURIST] An Iraqi court on Sunday acquitted two men accused of killing six British soldiers in Basra in 2003. The court ruled that it had insufficient evidence [Al Jazeera report] to prosecute Hamza Hateer and Mussa Ismael al-Fartusi for their participation in the “Red Cap murders” [Guardian backgrounder]. The incident involved a mob of 400 people attacking a police station staffed with members of the Royal Military Police [official website], who were tasked with training local Iraqi police forces after the fall of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive]. The court made the determination after hearing testimony from eight current or retired Iraqi police officers. The officers admitted that they did not directly witness the killings. One witness indicated that he saw Hateer steal a policeman’s rifle. The lawyer for the accused me stated that al-Fartusi would be freed, but Hateer would still face charges for the alleged theft.

Last month, Iraqi Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim disclosed that a man convicted [JURIST report] of the 2004 kidnapping and murder of British aid worker Margaret Hassan [JURIST news archive] escaped custody [JURIST report] in September 2009. Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi escaped from Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive], where he was serving a life sentence. Authorities have postponed a hearing of his appeal and may try al-Rawi in absentia if he is not found. In August, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] called for Iraq’s political leaders to adopt a “higher sense of urgency” [JURIST report] to form a new government, warning that further delays could create more instability. The country has been in disagreement over who has the authority to build the new government since holding elections [JURIST report] earlier this year. The Iraqi Supreme Court ratified the final results [JURIST report] of the country’s March parliamentary elections, officially confirming a narrow victory for the secular Iraqiya alliance, led by Iyad Allawi.

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