Iraq acknowledges killer of British aid worker escaped from prison 11 months ago

By Sameer N. Yacoub, AP
Sunday, August 22, 2010

Iraq acknowledges Briton’s killer escaped

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s deputy justice minister acknowledged Sunday that a man convicted of killing a British aid worker in 2004 escaped from prison 11 months ago and that the government only learned of the breakout last month.

The announcement is also embarrassing for the Iraqi government because it comes a month after the family of the victim, Margaret Hassan, made the news of the escape public.

The deputy minister, Busho Ibrahim, said Sunday that a government investigation revealed that Ali Lutfi al-Rawi escaped in September 2009 with the help of prison guards.

“In all that time, we thought he was in prison,” Ibrahim said.

The kidnapping and slaying of the 59-year-old Hassan at the height of the insurgency prompted most international aid organizations to suspend activities in Iraq and evacuate foreign staff. A videotape believed to be of her killing showed a blindfolded woman being shot in the head.

Hassan, who lived in Iraq for more than 30 years, was director of CARE International and worked on projects providing food, medicine and humanitarian aid to Iraqis. She was a critic of both the United Nations sanctions on Iraq and the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Hassan, who was married to an Iraqi and also had Iraqi citizenship, was abducted in Baghdad on Oct. 19, 2004, on her way to work.

Her captors issued videos showing her pleading for Britain to withdraw its troops from Iraq and calling for the release of female Iraqi prisoners.

Al-Rawi was convicted last year but was granted a retrial after saying he was not in Iraq when Hassan was killed. The retrial has repeatedly been postponed.

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