Two soldiers guilty of Iraqi prisoner abuse

Staff and agencies
Wednesday February 23, 2005

Photograph number 19 of 22 used in the court martial of three British soldiers in Osnabruck, Germany

Two British soldiers were today found guilty of charges of abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Camp Breadbasket aid camp near Basra, in southern Iraq.

Corporal Daniel Kenyon, 33, and 25-year-old Lance Corporal Mark Cooley, both from Newcastle upon Tyne, were convicted by a panel of seven officers at a court martial held at the men's base in Osnabrück, Germany.

Both could face up to two years in prison, Judge Advocate Michael Hunter, in charge of the court martial, said. Sentencing, which will be determined jointly by the judge advocate and the panel of officers, is expected to take place on Friday morning.

A third defendant, Lance Corporal Darren Larkin, 30, of Oldham, Greater Manchester, had already pleaded guilty to assault after he was pictured, dressed only in his boxer shorts and flip flops, standing on top of an Iraqi. Judge Advocate Hunter indicated that Larkin will face a maximum sentence of six months.

The abuse by the soldiers, from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, took place in May 2003 and was captured in a series of disturbing photographs taken at the camp.

What they showed was described by Judge Advocate Hunter as "brutal", "cruel" and "revolting" behaviour, which had "undoubtedly tarnished the international reputation of the British army, and to some extent the British nation, too".

Cooley was found guilty two charges, one of them of "disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind" after he drove a forklift truck with a bound Iraqi suspended from the prongs of the vehicle. The second charge against him was that he had posed for a photograph as though about to punch a prisoner.

Kenyon was convicted of three charges: aiding and abetting Larkin to assault a prisoner, prejudicing good order and military discipline by failing to report Cooley for the forklift truck incident, and failing to report that soldiers under his command had forced two naked Iraqi prisoners to simulate sex.

Evidence of the alleged abuse came to light after a fourth soldier, Fusilier Gary Bartlam, took camera film to be developed in his home town of Tamworth, Staffordshire. A worker at the photo shop he went to contacted police when she saw what was on the pictures. Bartlam was arrested and convicted for taking the photographs at an earlier court martial.

In their defence, the soldiers claimed that the alleged abuse had stemmed from an unlawful mission at the camp to capture and deter looters. The mission - codenamed Operation Ali Baba - was ordered by the camp's commanding officer, Major Taylor.

Around 70 soldiers took part in the operation, which the court martial heard was in breach of the Geneva convention. Legal teams representing the soldiers claimed the operation had set the tone for events that were to follow later the same day.

Last month, the court martial released 22 photographs depicting soldiers apparently abusing bound Iraqi detainees, including images of prisoners being forced to simulate sexual acts.

The images - described as shocking and appalling" by the prime minister, Tony Blair - prompted international outrage, bringing comparisons with the scandal that engulfed the US military after images of abuse emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad.

General Sir Mike Jackson, the chief of the general staff, also issued a statement condemning any abuse of prisoners, and insisted the army took all such allegations seriously. He also committed the army to dealing with any issues arising from the trial.

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