Australian 'tortured and beaten' by British soldiers

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The British Army faces claims that soldiers assaulted and tortured an Australian citizen mistaken for a Saddam loyalist.

Members of the Royal Regiment of Wales are accused of beating the marine surveyor they arrested in a round-up of Ba'ath Party suspects in Iraq in November 2003.

The 48-year-old man will bring his personal injury claim against the Ministry of Defence in the High Court this year. He accuses soldiers of breaking one of his ribs, abusing him with racial taunts and forcing him to stand all night, half-naked in an interrogation block.

Nouri Alwan, who grew up and was educated in Iraq, fled his home for Australia in 1999 after suffering persecution under Saddam's regime. He was granted Australian citizenship.

Army medical reports confirm that Mr Alwan had injuries to his stomach and rib area when examined by doctors in a British detention camp in Basra. But the MoD denies liability for the injuries or his arrest.

Next week, four Guardsmen appear in a court martial in Colchester on man-slaughter charges over the death of an Iraqi teenager, Ahmed Kareem. He drowned after allegedly being forced into a river to swim across. In September, five members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and two from the Intelligence Corps will stand trial over the death of Baha Musa, 26, a hotel receptionist.

Like Ahmed Kareem, Baha Musa had been detained by a British military patrol. He died of injuries allegedly sustained in a beating in September 2003.

The charges include war crimes offences of prisoner mistreatment and abuse, and manslaughter. Colonel Jorge Mendonca, the former commanding officer of the regiment, faces a charge of negligence.

Mr Alwan, who has a wife and five children in Adelaide, felt safe enough to return to Iraq six months after the fall of Saddam. He was appointed national manager for an Australian marine and oil company called Intertek, and his principal task was to inspect oil cargoes leaving Iraq.

He said: "I was woken by the sound of the main gate to the villa being broken. I saw the British soldiers were trying to break down the door," Mr Alwan says in his statement.

"This did not worry me as I thought they must have been looking for weapons and I assumed once I had explained to them that I was an Australian citizen in Iraq on business they would be OK. Mr Alwan says before he could get downstairs the soldiers had broken down the kitchen door. "One of the soldiers hit me on the hand with the back of his gun and pushed me into the corner. Two of soldiers tied my hands together and one soldier kicked me.

"While we were walking across the compound, the soldiers began hitting me on my shoulders, back and back of the head. I felt them kicking me and hitting me with their rifle butts and hands, yet I was not resisting them in any way. "They kept hitting me and I fell ... they still carried on hitting me and kicking me."

He says his interrogators told him that he had simply been in the "wrong place at the wrong time".

He was held for three days until Intertek contacted the Australian High Commission in Baghdad, which secured his release.