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Soldiers may face Mousa prosecution

British soldiers could face a fresh prosecution over the brutal death of an Iraqi civilian after a scathing report condemned the "shameful" abuse of prisoners in UK custody.

A landmark public inquiry concluded that father-of-two Baha Mousa, 26, died after an "appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence" meted out by members of 1st Battalion the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (1QLR).

Inquiry chairman Sir William Gage said a number of British officers who could have stopped the abuse, including 1QLR's former commanding officer Colonel Jorge Mendonca, bore a "heavy responsibility" for the "grave and shameful events".

He also strongly criticised the "corporate failure" by the Ministry of Defence that led to "conditioning" techniques banned by the UK in 1972, including hooding and making prisoners stand in painful stress positions, being used by soldiers in Iraq.

The £13 million public inquiry, which has published its 1,400-page final report, condemned the "lack of moral courage to report abuse" within Preston-based 1QLR. It named 19 soldiers who assaulted Mr Mousa and nine Iraqis detained with him, and found that many others, including several officers, must have known what was happening.

The damning report said the violence could not be described as a "one-off" because of evidence that 1QLR troops abused and mistreated Iraqi civilians on other occasions. Lawyers for Mr Mousa's family called for the soldiers responsible for his death to face charges in the light of the findings.

Seven members of 1QLR, including Col Mendonca, faced allegations relating to the mistreatment of the detainees at a high-profile court martial in 2006-07.

The trial ended with them all cleared, apart from Corporal Donald Payne, who became the first member of the British armed forces convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians. Payne was acquitted of manslaughter.

The legal team for Mr Mousa's relatives and the other detainees believe that evidence in the inquiry's report could form the basis for a new prosecution. Sapna Malik, from law firm Leigh Day and Co, said: "In light of the cogent and serious findings by Sir William Gage, we now expect that the military and civilian prosecuting authorities of this country will act to ensure that justice is done."

The Crown Prosecution Service said the inquiry's report had not been referred to it. The Service Prosecuting Authority, which brings military prosecutions, was not available for comment.


From Belfast Telegraph