IMAGE: Margaret Hassan
CARE.org
Margaret Hassan was an Iraqi citizen who had devoted years to caring for other Iraqis.
updated 6/2/2009 2:09:58 PM ET 2009-06-02T18:09:58

An Iraqi man was convicted Tuesday in the 2004 kidnapping and slaying of British aid worker Margaret Hassan and was sentenced to life in prison.

Hassan, 59, was one of the highest profile figures to fall victim to the wave of kidnappings that swept the country as the insurgency was gaining traction.

A judge handed down the sentence against Ali Lutfi al-Rawi after a one-day trial in an Iraqi court in Baghdad. He faced charges of kidnapping, murder and extortion.

The defendant, who had pleaded not guilty, showed no reaction as he was led away by guards after the sentencing.

He was the second suspect charged as part of a gang believed to have kidnapped Hassan, who was the director of CARE International in Iraq.

The extortion charge stemmed from his effort to persuade the British Embassy to pay him for information about the location of Hassan's remains, which have never been found.

Hassan was married to an Iraqi and had lived in this country for 30 years, spending nearly half her life helping Iraqis.

After her kidnapping, a terrified Hassan was shown on a video pleading for her life and calling on then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair to withdraw troops from Iraq. She was killed a month later.

In June 2006, another Iraqi man also was sentenced to life in prison for helping Hassan's kidnappers in what was believed to be the first conviction in Iraq in the abduction of a foreigner. Two others were acquitted at that time.

Kidnappings of Westerners reached a crescendo in 2004, forcing foreigners to flee Iraq or take refuge in heavily guarded compounds and diminishing the ability of aid groups and journalists to operate. Many of the victims were butchered and their deaths recorded on videotapes distributed to Arab satellite TV stations or posted on militant Web sites.

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