Soldier 'not trained to deal with civilians'

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The Independent Online

A British soldier accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners admitted yesterday that he received no training in how to deal with civilians - but explained some of the incidents as "a deterrent" to Iraqis.

Cpl Daniel Kenyon, 33, a Gulf War veteran, told a court martial in Germany that the measures in place at the "Camp Bread Basket" supply depot in Basra were unprofessional and said captured looters were beaten with sticks and placed in a barbed wire cage.

"If no fear is instilled into any sort of thief or rapist, whatever they may be, then they will just keep doing the same thing over and over again," said the NCO who denies five charges of abusing Iraqi prisoners.

Cpl Kenyon, who was just 17 when he enlisted in the military in 1989, was the first soldier to give evidence after another charge against a fellow defendant was dropped yesterday. Cpl Kenyon, who was described in his army appraisals as "intelligent, reliable and conscientious", said he served on the frontline during the 1991 Gulf War and saw friends killed when their Warrior vehicle was fired upon by American forces in a "friendly-fire attack." He also served in a tour of Bosnia.

The court martial was also told that he suffered a personal tragedy when his first wife, Ruth, died from deep vein thrombosis in April 1996.

The hearing was told yesterday of Cpl Kenyon's actions in defusing 70 to 80 crates of plastic explosives after he discovered them positioned near a recently captured enemy bridge. That was used as an example of his devotion to duty.

The 33-year-old from Newcastle said he had been told to fire warning shots at looters only a week before the alleged incidents took place at Camp Bread Basket and a sergeant major had told him that any looters caught at the camp were given "a good kicking".

Asked whether he would have been prepared to hit somebody, he replied that "it goes against everything I had done beforehand on other operations". But he did describe how the Iraqi prisoners were forced to run around the camp carrying boxes above their heads in an army practice known as "beasting".

"It's been described before as they were getting tapped with sticks," he said. "They weren't - they were getting a proper beating with sticks."

Cpl Kenyon said he was told to work the captured looters and "mess them about" by making them do unnecessary jobs around the camp and general area but he denied that the photographs were as serious as they looked.

He claimed that a picture of a co-accused, L/Cpl Mark Cooley, posing as though about to punch a prisoner was "absolutely nothing". Cpl Kenyon described it as similar to pulling a funny face behind a person's back when they are having their photo taken, just to make it funny.

L/Cpl Cooley, 25, was cleared of being photographed while posing as though kicking an Iraqi being detained at "Camp Bread Basket".

The move came only days after a charge was dropped against L/Cpl Darren Larkin, who was cleared of forcing the captured men to strip, moments before they were forced to perform a simulated "sex show".

Larkin, 30, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, has admitted assaulting one of the prisoners, after he was pictured in his boxer shorts standing on top of an Iraqi detainee.

A charge against Cpl Kenyon of aiding and abetting Larkin was also dropped last week.

Judge Advocate Michael Hunter ordered the panel of seven military officers trying the men to find L/Cpl Cooley, from Newcastle, not guilty of the charge yesterday. But he still faces a further two charges including posing for a photograph while pretending to punch an Iraqi prisoner.

L/Cpl Cooley and Cpl Kenyon, of the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, are accused of abusing and assaulting prisoners detained for looting food from the camp in May 2003.

The case continues.