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Sister of aid worker murdered in Iraq accuses UK

Written by: Staff

LONDON, June 5 (Reuters) The sister of Margaret Hassan, a British aid worker murdered in Iraq in 2004, accused the government today of effectively condemning her to death by refusing to talk to her captors.

The CARE worker was ambushed and kidnapped on the way to work in October 2004 and shot dead nearly one month later. Her body has never been recovered.

As one man was jailed for life and two acquitted in Baghdad in connection with the murder, Hassan's sister Deirdre Fitzsimmons told BBC radio that Britain had treated four phone calls from her captors as hoaxes.

''We were advised ... by the powers that be that these were hoax calls. But after all they were made on my sister's mobile telephone,'' she said.

''They were definitely coming from these kidnappers because they would make calls and then they would issue videos and they never made any demands for money,'' she added, accusing the authorities of having abandoned the family.

Hassan, who also had Iraqi and Irish citizenship, had lived in the country for 30 years and was married to an Iraqi.

''My brother-in-law was left in a house on his own without any recording equipment. He was given the advice to say the British didn't want to be involved,'' Fitzsimmons said.

''After the first call when they demanded to speak to the British, the advice given to my brother-in-law was 'we'll emphasise her Iraqiness' -- which was a ridiculous thing to do after all because they had kidnapped her and taken possession of her British passport.

''The last phone calls were made on November 7. They demanded to negotiate. I don't think he knew what to do. He did the best he could.

''After all this was a man in a house on his own. His wife had been taken hostage. He had seen terrible videos of her and he was really left on his own,'' Fitzsimmons said.

Hassan was murdered the following day.

The three men on trial in Baghdad were captured by US forces in May last year in possession of Hassan's personal belongings including her handbag and make-up.

Mustafa Salman was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of aiding and abetting the kidnappers. Two other defendants were released.

Fitzsimmons, her voice breaking with emotion, appealed to the authorities to find out where her sister's body was so it could be returned to England for burial.

''These men know where my sister is buried and all we want to do now is to bring her home,'' she said. ''Her husband wants her to come home to England and we want to bury her with the respect that she deserves.

Reuters KD GC1651

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