Army officer faces Iraq death inquiry

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The Independent Online

One of the most senior British Army officers charged over the death of an Iraqi prisoner will give evidence to the public inquiry into the incident today.

Hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, 26, died in the custody of the former Queen's Lancashire Regiment in Basra, southern Iraq, in September 2003 having suffered 93 separate injuries.

After the death, Major Michael Peebles was accused of negligently performing the duty of ensuring the men under his control did not ill-treat Iraqi prisoners, but later cleared at a court martial.

Maj Peebles, of the Intelligence Corps, was then battle group internment review officer with responsibility for deciding whether or not detainees should be held or released.

A soldier told the inquiry in October that the officer warned his men not to "go as far as you did last time" when Mr Mousa and several of his colleagues were arrested on September 14 2003.

Ali Aktash, then a Territorial Army signaller, claimed that Maj Peebles told him British troops had beaten detainees on a previous occasion.

The public inquiry in central London has been told that UK soldiers in Iraq used "conditioning" methods - such as hooding, sleep deprivation and making suspects stand in painful stress positions - banned by the Government in 1972.

It has also heard that the troops subjected them to abuse including making them scream in an "orchestrated choir" and forcing one to dance like Michael Jackson.

The inquiry was played a short video showing one soldier, Corporal Donald Payne, screaming obscenities at the hooded prisoners and calling them "apes".

Cpl Payne became the first member of the British Armed Forces to be convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians at the court martial in September 2006.

He was dismissed from the Army and sentenced to one year in a civilian jail.

Six other soldiers who faced the court martial were cleared on all counts in March 2007.

The Ministry of Defence agreed in July last year to pay £2.83 million in compensation to the families of Mr Mousa and nine other Iraqi men mistreated by British troops.