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British soldiers to be sentenced in military court for abusing Afghan boy and man

By Alex Diaz, in Germany

Two British soldiers are due to be sentenced in a military court in Germany for abusing Afghan civilians.

One of the soldiers, who has been granted anonymity due to fears that naming him would endanger his life and that of his family, has admitted pulling an Afghan boy's hand towards his crotch while saying "Touch my special place".

Soldier X pleaded guilty to conduct to the prejudice of good order and service discipline at the start of a court martial for three British servicemen in Sennelager, Germany.

The offence took place while he was on tour in Afghanistan in December 2011.

He also admitted insulting another Afghan child between October 16, 2011 and January 6, 2012.

Soldier X was cleared of disgraceful conduct of an indecent kind and of forcing an Afghan girl to touch him on a separate occasion.

A second soldier, referred to as Soldier Y, admitted that he was involved in having an Afghan man photographed with a sign which read "Silly Paki" between October 16, 2011 and January 6, 2012.

The serviceman pleaded guilty to a racially aggravated offence likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress under the Crime and Disorder Act.

He was initially charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and service discipline but prosecutor Lt Col Jane England accepted his guilty plea to the separate offence.

Meanwhile, their patrol commander, referred to as Soldier Z, was cleared of failing in his duty to deal with the offences.

Lt Col England said it would not be in the public interest or appropriate to proceed against him in the light of the guilty pleas from Soldier X and Y.

Soldier X is now 22 and was a private who has since left the Army, the court heard.

At the time of the offences he and Soldier Y were serving with 1 Yorks in Lashkar Gah West, although neither were members of that regiment.

Soldier X was seen by a female member of the Royal Military Police, a Lance Corporal Mawson, being filmed near a checkpoint while telling a young Afghan boy to touch his privates and pulling on his hand.

Video footage recovered by his checkpoint commander of the incident was shown today to the court.

It showed the former serviceman with a child who appeared to be around five years old, surrounded by other soldiers and laughing as he repeated "touch my special place" several times.

In a second film, which he recorded himself, Soldier X can be heard making comments about other soldiers in which he claims they are paedophiles.

Later in the footage an Afghan boy of around 10 comes up to him, smiling and offering to shake his hand.

Soldier X was heard insulting the boy, telling him to "f*** off" and calling him a "f****** c***" before the child turns back in surprise.

Peter Glenser, for the defence, said the films were made in imitation of comic movie The Hangover, but admitted his client had an "immature sense of humour".

"You may think that Ricky Gervais does not have much to worry about in terms of competition from Soldier X," Mr Glenser said.

The former soldier, who was wearing a grey suit and white shirt in court, has since moved into the building trade.

Soldier Y, now 23, is a Lance Bombardier who is still serving with the Army.

The court was shown a picture of him posing with an Afghan man holding a racist sign.

Lt Col England said: "Soldier Y's conduct was racist, it was insulting, it was likely to cause harassment or distress to the local male or other local males who might see it."

Izzy Hogg, for the defence, said in mitigation that her client was not racist and had not been brought up in such a way.

"His godfather is black and his best friend is Filipino," she said.

"He accepts that it shouldn't have happened and that he stepped over the line."

Responding to an application by the Press Association for the anonymity order to be lifted, Judge Advocate Large said: "Very especially in the light of recent events in London and the threat posed by lone wolves it seems to me that it would be wrong to lift the restrictions.

"I accept that it would usually be wrong to make such an order and this should not be seen as an attempt by the military to hide behind the law.

"It was made in response to very specific circumstances and on specific grounds."

The Judge Advocate retired to consider sentences with a board of three serving officers.

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