Briton to go on trial in Baghdad

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A BRITISH expatriate is expected to go on trial in Baghdad today on unspecified charges after disappearing from north Kuwait two months ago, writes Phil Davison.

The British and US governments fear Paul Ride, 33, a chef from Walthamstow, north London, could be a hostage in the heightened dispute with Iraq.

His wife, Julie, who is in London, believes he was kidnapped by Iraqi soldiers or intelligence agents in Kuwait. British diplomats were mystified as to how he could have got lost and strayed across border minefields.

The Foreign Office said yesterday that it had appealed to President Boris Yeltsin of Russia to intervene. Britain has had no diplomatic relations with Iraq since the Gulf war.

Last year, John Major asked for and received Soviet intervention over Ian Richter, the British businessman jailed in Iraq for five years on spying charges. Russian mediation was crucial in winning his release last


The Foreign Office said it was pressing Iraq to find out how Mr Ride got to Baghdad. It was also demanding details of any charges or allegations. By last night, Iraq had failed to respond.

Mr Ride, a catering manager for Taylor International Catering, a British-based company, was responsible for stocking office canteens and restaurants used by British, American and other Western workers.

He vanished on 28 June after leaving a client in al-Jahra, close to Mutla Ridge. He was heading for another client, half an hour's drive to the south of the border, but never arrived.

Last Saturday a Baghdad- based delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had been searching since June, traced him to a jail in the Iraqi capital. A Geneva spokesman said yesterday: 'Our delegate spoke to him alone. He appeared to be in good health.'

Mrs Ride, 31, said that her husband had been looking forward to getting home next month to watch Chelsea football club.