Soldier arrested over fake 'Mirror' pictures

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The Independent Online

At least one soldier has been arrested in connection with the allegedly fake Daily Mirror photographs of British abuse of an Iraqi, the Ministry of Defence announced last night.

At least one soldier has been arrested in connection with the allegedly fake Daily Mirror photographs of British abuse of an Iraqi, the Ministry of Defence announced last night.

The MoD would not comment further on the arrest or whether other arrests had been made, because to do so could "jeopardise" an ongoing investigation, a spokeswoman said.

It was reported last night that up to four people were being questioned by military investigators. "I can confirm that there was at least one soldier arrested earlier today as part of the [Royal Military Police] Special Investigation Branch investigation into the alleged fake photographs," the spokeswoman said, adding the arrest was a "routine" part of the investigation and there were no charges.

A source at the Daily Mirror said the arrest had not come from information from the newspaper and the first Mirror staff had heard of it was when reporters began contacting them last night.

"The fact this arrest has been made has not been the result of us giving up our sources," the source said. "It's not the result of co-operation with the MoD. It's just not where it's come from."

The storm broke on Saturday 1 May, when the Mirror published photographs purporting to be of British soldiers torturing an Iraqi. The photos depicted the hooded prisoner being urinated on, kicked and beaten. Defence commentators cast doubt on the equipment in the photographs, saying the Bedford truck and firearms depicted were not used in Iraq.

Piers Morgan, Mirror editor at the time, stood by the story and the statements of so-called Soldiers "A" and "B", even though the Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and, finally, Tony Blair insisted that the pictures were fake. The last straw proved to be a press conference by the Queen's Lancashire Regiment last Friday in which its commanding officer, Colonel David Black, called for a front-page apology in the newspaper. "It's time that the ego of one editor is measured against the life of the soldier," he said.

Morgan was sacked on Friday after a meeting of the Trinity Mirror board. The newspaper produced a front page the following morning with the headline "Sorry we were hoaxed", pledging to donate to charity all the money it made from selling on the photos. In a message to readers, it said: "We apologise for publishing pictures which we now believe were not genuine. We also say sorry to the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and our Army in Iraq for publishing those pictures."

Institutional investors were said to be pressing Trinity Mirror for more information about Morgan's demands for more than £1m in severance pay. There has been speculation that Morgan may be keeping silent on his sacking as part of conditions being negotiated for his pay-off.

The Sun newspaper on Friday offered a £50,000 reward for anyone who gave information leading to the arrest of the soldiers who provided the contentious photographs but withdrew the offer after Morgan was dismissed.

The MoD was not releasing details last night of the arrest. It has been reported that there were three soldiers involved in providing the photographs and that military investigators had concluded that the pictures were taken at Territorial Army Barracks in Preston, Lancashire, using a "mocked up" four-ton Bedford MK lorry.

Yesterday, there was speculation among industry sources that acting Mirror editor, Des Kelly, would not force the three or four reporters who knew the identities of Soldiers A and B to reveal their sources.