The truck, the rifle, the laces: the MoD puts forward its evidence

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The Independent Online

There is growing confidence within the Ministry of Defence that the Daily Mirror pictures allegedly showing British troops torturing captured Iraqis are an elaborate hoax. But the newspaper's editor Piers Morgan is insisting he will not accept they are faked until "incontrovertible evidence is produced to the contrary". These are the key areas of dispute:

There is growing confidence within the Ministry of Defence that the Daily Mirror pictures allegedly showing British troops torturing captured Iraqis are an elaborate hoax. But the newspaper's editor Piers Morgan is insisting he will not accept they are faked until "incontrovertible evidence is produced to the contrary". These are the key areas of dispute:

THE TRUCK: The interior of the vehicle in which the prisoner is allegedly being urinated on has side slats typical of a Bedford MK4. Its tailgate and cover are also more typical of the Bedford than the four-ton Leyland DAFs used to transport the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and their supplies in Iraq. There is no sign of sand or dirt inside the truck.

The Mirror insists that the truck was used in Iraq. A witness called Soldier C, who claims to have seen four incidents of violence involving the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, says he saw a Bedford truck at Basra Palace.

THE RIFLE: The weapon used in the alleged torture pictures is a pristine Mark I version of the SA80 - a predominately plastic rifle that scratches easily when used in the field. Troops are currently issued with the Mark II.

Defence experts have also highlighted the missing serial number on the rifle's foregrip and the absence of an identifying yellow armoury number. The barrel has also been left uncovered - forbidden in desert conditions. There is no "press to talk" switch allowing soldiers to use a headset while on patrol or a carrying sling. The Mirror says the pictures would need to be clearer to accurately gauge the exact weapon.

THE UNIFORM: The soldiers appear too clean to have been in a live desert conflict zone, while their unit badges are missing as are their wristwatches. In contravention of Army rules the men's webbing ammunition pouches are empty and hanging open. They are wearing non-standard issue floppy hats and their combat trousers are tucked into their boots when they would normally be secured with elastic. The Mirror's Soldier C says he wore a floppy hat throughout his tour of Iraq duty. The MoD has confirmed that floppy hats were issued and soldiers were allowed to wear what they wanted. The Mirror points out that soldiers are meant to wear clean uniforms. Webbing is often worn loose, says Soldier C.

THE BOOTS: The soldiers' boots are laced criss-cross. British soldiers always use the straight-laced method.

But Soldier C says he has never been told which way to lace his boots - it is a matter of personal choice.

THE PRISONER: He is upright and his legs are wide apart - experts say torture prisoners normally adopt the foetal position. There is also no evidence of sweating or blood. The prisoner's T-shirt bears a Syrian flag - inconsistent with the claim he is a Shia from Basra. He is also wearing underpants - not typical for Iraqis. On his head is a hessian sack which allows light to penetrate.

The Mirror insists that the T-shirts were common in Basra and that hessian sacks were used to carry sand so would have been readily available.

THE PHOTOGRAPHS: The pictures are in black and white while a typical squaddie would be more likely to use colour film. The depth of field is too great for a "happy snappy" camera and the pictures are of an unusually high definition. The images appear static and posed.

The Mirror claims the soldier may have been pressing down with his boot rather than kicking. If he was kicking, then the victim is static because he cannot see the incoming blow. The newspaper also claims soldiers are hiding their faces for fear of official censure.

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