UK's refusal to negotiate led to Hassan's death - family

 

Irish-British-Iraqi aid worker Margaret Hassan, who was murdered in Iraq, died because the British Government refused to speak to her kidnappers, her family claimed today.

The Care International worker was taken hostage in October 2004 and killed just under a month later, but her body has never been found.

Today her family said that during her captivity four calls were made to her Iraqi husband Tahseen in Baghdad from the kidnappers, demanding to speak to a member of the British Embassy.

But he had been told by the British that they would not speak to the hostage-takers.

"We believe that the refusal by the British Government to open a dialogue with the kidnappers cost our sister her life," Deidre, Geraldine, Kathryn and Michael Fitzsimons said in a statement released today.

The Dublin-born charity worker had British, Irish and Iraqi nationality and had lived in Iraq for 30 years.

Three men arrested by American troops in May last year and held in connection with her kidnap and murder are due to go on trial in Baghdad tomorrow.

The family said they had begged British Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett, as well as the Foreign Office, to arrange for the men to be interviewed by British Military Police.

"They have refused this request even though this is the only way that Margaret's remains will be found and we can bring her home to be buried with the dignity she deserves," they said today.

In the statement, Mrs Hassan's brother and sisters said: "We believe the time has now come for the British and Irish people to know the truth of what happened to our sister Margaret, a British subject.

"During the period of her captivity, four calls were made from the kidnappers to her husband Tahseen in Baghdad.

"These calls were made from Margaret's mobile phone. "The hostage-takers demanded to speak to a member of the British Embassy, but Tahseen had been told by the British that they would not speak to the kidnappers.

"We believe that the refusal by the British Government to open a dialogue with the kidnappers cost our sister her life.

"Margaret, who was vocally opposed to the war in Iraq, was sacrificed for the political ends of Tony Blair and George Bush."

PA