UK soldier in court martial over Iraq abuse

A British soldier faced a court martial yesterday over the alleged abuse of Iraqi civilians.

Fusilier Gary Bartlam, 19, from Dordon, Warwickshire, appeared before a panel of army officers and a judge advocate at the headquarters of his regiment, the Royal Fusiliers, in Hohne, northern Germany.

Fusilier Bartlam is charged with abusing Iraqi prisoners detained by British forces in the city of Basra in May 2003, after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Michael Hunter, the presiding judge advocate, imposed blanket reporting restrictions on the trial which he said could be lifted over the coming weeks.

The court martial marked the beginning of legal proceedings to determine the extent to which British forces abused their powers in Iraq.

The Ministry of Defence rejected suggestions yesterday that reporting restrictions had been imposed on the court martial so as not to compromise the forthcoming Iraqi elections.