At least 20 soldiers implicated in further Iraqi abuse claims

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At least 20 British soldiers are now facing prosecution after coming under "significant suspicion" of involvement in the "deliberate" abuse of Iraqi civilians, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

At least 20 British soldiers are now facing prosecution after coming under "significant suspicion" of involvement in the "deliberate" abuse of Iraqi civilians, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The figure is contained in responses by the Ministry of Defence to detailed questions from the IoS. These also reveal that the total number of cases involving alleged abuse and negligence by British forces in Iraq has gone up from 12 to 16, and include two previously undisclosed cases against Royal Air Force personnel.

The new cases led last night to fresh demands from Labour and opposition MPs for an independent inquiry into the abuse allegations.

Meanwhile, another Iraqi civilian has accused British troops of deliberately torturing and assaulting him in August 2002. Muhanned Dhahir Abdullah claims he was forced to lean over an open toilet and then kicked and punched. He alleges he was also hooded, forced to drink urine, soaked with hot water and fluorescent chemicals, made to clean out latrines with his bare hands, and told to "dance like Michael Jackson".

These new revelations follow the release last week of shocking images of British soldiers allegedly sexually abusing, assaulting and ill-treating Iraqi prisoners at an aid depot near Basra in May 2003. The 22 images were produced at the first court martial of British troops accused of ill-treating detainees, which started in Osnabruck, Germany, on Tuesday. Two of the three accused, members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, have denied the charges against them and claimed they were following orders to "work them hard".

The allegations by Mr Abdullah are among 40 torture cases compiled by Phil Shiner, the Birmingham human rights lawyer who won a High Court ruling in December that the Government had broken the Human Rights Act over the death of the Iraqi hotel receptionist, Baha Mousa. The MoD is appealing against the ruling.

Army prosecutors are still considering whether to prosecute members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment over Mr Mousa's death in Basra on 15 September 2003, and allegations they assaulted up to seven others also arrested.

But the new abuse claims by Mr Abdullah, who was accused with his father of belonging to a rebel group called Saddam's Army, echo the allegations in the Baha Mousa case. One witness, Kifah Taha al-Mutari, also said they were told to "dance like Michael Jackson". Mr Abdullah says that he and other detainees at Umm Qasr detention centre, south of Basra, were forced to clean human waste with their bare hands and were made to walk in the middle of the night for half an hour holding full jerrycans, empty them, refill them and bring them back again.

When Mr Abdullah requested a bag to keep his bread in, he was placed in solitary confinement and exposed to the sun. He had to stay kneeling for two hours.

The MoD has now released the names of Iraqis who died in cases where British troops face prosecution. They include Waleed Fayayi Muzban, whose minibus was riddled with bullets while he was coming home from work, and Ghanim Gatteh al-Roomi, a tribesman shot dead after a funeral. One RAF case is thought to include the death of Tanik S Mahmud in a helicopter in April 2003 after he was detained by the RAF Regiment.

The Army says the abuse cases involve only a tiny minority of soldiers. Major General Sir Michael Jackson, Chief of the Defence Staff, said last week that since 65,000 military personnel had served in Iraq, "the number of open investigations into deliberate abuse against Iraqis is very small".

Mr Shiner said last night that the High Court had questioned the impartiality of army investigations. "Unless we have an independent investigation, then the figures will be hugely downplayed," he said.

Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP, said: "It is indefensible now not to conduct an independent inquiry in these circumstances. These are some of the worst and most serious allegations of abuse involving the British Army since Kenya in the Fifties."

His demand was supported by Harry Cohen, the Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead: "Brutality and torture was widespread. There's a really serious problem here."