Detainees ‘were suspected in killings of military police’

NINE Iraqis allegedly abused by British soldiers were believed to be linked to the massacre of six Royal Military Police three months before their ordeal, a court was told yesterday.

Seven soldiers are standing trial on charges relating to the alleged abuse of the civilian detainees, suspected insurgents, following their arrest in Basra in September 2003. One of the prisoners, Baha Musa, aged 26, died.

Prosecutor Julian Bevan QC yesterday outlined various factors which may have led to hostility between the soldiers and their detainees.

He told the court martial in Wiltshire that the Iraqis held by members of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment (QLR), now the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, were suspected to have been involved with the gunning down of six Red Caps in the town of Al Majar Al Kabir in June 2003.

The prosecutor yesterrday said that “general feelings of hostility and enmity” created by the soldiers facing a daily risk of death would have been heightened by such beliefs. He said one of the accused, Major Michael Peebles, 35, of the Intelligence Corps, described the detainees as “suspected terrorists”.

Another factor serving to increase the tension was the murder of Captain Dai Jones, a “much loved” officer of the QLR, Mr Bevan told the court. Capt Jones was killed by insurgents in an August 2003 bombing.

Mr Bevan said all these things would have “contributed to the tension and increase the enmity/hostility”.

Corporal Donald Payne, 35, admits a war crime, that of treating Iraqi prisoners inhumanely.

Payne denies two further charges, manslaughter and perverting the course of justice, relating to the same alleged ordeal suffered by the nine Iraqis.

Payne’s six co-defendants all plead not guilty to the various charges facing them.

Two soldiers face charges of inhumane treatment, one is accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, three — including Colonel Jorge Mendonca MBE, the most senior British serviceman yet to face a court martial — are accused of negligently performing a duty.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox