Soldiers face trial over death in Iraq

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The Independent Online

An Army officer and four soldiers are facing a criminal trial over the death of Sergeant Steven Roberts in an alleged friendly-fire incident in Iraq in March last year.

An Army officer and four soldiers are facing a criminal trial over the death of Sergeant Steven Roberts in an alleged friendly-fire incident in Iraq in March last year.

After an 18-month inquiry by military police and Army lawyers, it is understood that the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, has decided to hand the case over to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration.

Sgt Roberts was killed on 24 March, during an incident at a checkpoint near Basra, after being told to hand over his body armour to a colleague.

It is alleged that Sgt Roberts died in crossfire after a member of his unit tried to shoot an Iraqi who was about to assault him. A civilian named as Zaher Sabti Zaher is also thought to have died in the incident, but it remains unclear whether anyone will be prosecuted for his death.

CPS lawyers will be considering suggestions that having body armour would not have saved Sgt Roberts's life. The prosecution involves allegations that his colleagues failed to properly follow Army procedures after the incident.

The case is one of 11 allegedly unlawful killings and abuse cases involving British troops, including the alleged murder of hotel receptionist Baha Mousa and abuse of seven hotel staff and co-owners.

It is thought at least two of the cases will also be given to the CPS, amid growing doubts about the ability of the military system to prosecute difficult cases. Three prosecutions are already under way. Earlier this month, Trooper Kevin Williams was charged by the CPS with murdering Hassan Said Dayr, after his commanding officer refused to allow a court martial.

Two courts martial have also been ordered, involving four Royal Regiment of Fusiliers soldiers who allegedly ill-treated Iraqi prisoners, and the case of Private Alexander Johnson, of the King's Own Scottish Borderers, who allegedly crippled a 13-year-old Iraqi boy in an accidental shooting.