BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi criminal court convicted five men and sentenced them to life in prison on Thursday in the killing of a U.S. citizen in Baghdad last year, officials said.
Stephen Edward Troell, 45, a native of Tennessee, was fatally shot in his car in November by assailants as he pulled up to the street where he lived in Baghdad’s central Karrada district with his family.
It was a rare killing of a foreigner in Iraq, where security conditions have improved in recent years.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani at the time called the murder “a cowardly crime against an American citizen and resident of our country who is known amongst the community.” A security guard working in the modest residential neighborhood where Troell lived said at the time that the American would greet him in Arabic every morning on his way to work and was well liked by his Iraqi neighbors.
Two Iraqi intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the case said one Iranian and four Iraqis were convicted in the killing. The Iranian was identified as Mohammed Ali Ridha. The officials did not give the names of the Iraqis.
The five convicted men are under detention, while others wanted in connection with the case have fled, they said.
One of the officials said the first suspect arrested was an Iraqi who pointed authorities to Ridha, who was arrested in the Iraqi city of Najaf after returning to Iraq from Iran.
The suspects testified during the trial that they shot Troell during a kidnapping gone wrong, one of the officials said. He said the American had been accosted by two cars, with four people in each vehicle, while others stood lookout.
Troell worked for Global English Institute, a language school in Baghdad’s Harthiya neighborhood, which operated under the auspices of the Texas-based private group Millennium Relief and Development Services. Officials said at the time of Troell’s killing that the group was known to conduct Christian missionary work along with its development activities.
A spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad referred a request for comment on the convictions to the State Department in Washington. A spokesperson in Washington could not immediately be reached.
Associated Press writer Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report.