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UK Politics

British soldiers who abused Iraqis are jailed and dismissed from the Army

The three soldiers found guilty of mistreating Iraqi civilians have been jailed and thrown out of the Army for their roles in the prisoner abuse scandal at an aid camp in southern Iraq.

The men, from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, were sentenced last night by a court martial comprising a panel of seven senior officers and Judge Advocate Michael Hunter in Osnabrück, Germany.

Cpl Daniel Kenyon was sentenced to 18 months, L/Cpl Mark Cooley to two years and L/Cpl Darren Larkin to 140 days. Kenyon, 33, and Cooley, 25, were found guilty on Wednesday of taking part in the mistreatment of captured looters at Camp Bread Basket in Basra in May 2003. Larkin, 30, pleaded guilty to assaulting an Iraqi prisoner.

The case was brought to trial after the discovery of "trophy" photographs of abuse, including images of sexual humiliation. The photographs were taken by Gary Bartlam, 20, who took them to be developed at a shop in his home town, Tamworth, Staffordshire, where an assistant called the police.

At a separate court last month in Hohne, Germany, Bartlam was ordered to be detained at a youth detention facility for 18 months and discharged from the Army in disgrace. In one photograph, Cooley was shown driving a forklift truck with an Iraqi man suspended from the prongs. Another showed Cooley, from Newcastle upon Tyne, pretending to punch a prostrate prisoner.

Cooley was found guilty of two charges - disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind and prejudicing good order and military discipline. Kenyon was found guilty of three charges - aiding and abetting Larkin in the assault, failing to report the forklift truck incident and failing to report that prisoners were being forced to simulate oral sex.

Earlier yesterday, in mitigation the court heard that Kenyon was sorry for the shame he had brought on the Army, which was referred to as his "family".

The three soldiers' lawyers said the men felt that they had been made "scapegoats". They criticised the way their clients were punished while senior officers escaped any sanctions for the events that took place.

Stuart Jackson, who represents Kenyon, the most senior soldier to face court martial, said: "My client feels that he has been singled out, he feels that he has been made a scapegoat. He feels ... a significant number of other soldiers, including many senior to him, some of whom have been promoted, were involved in the mistreatment. The evidence is clear and why they haven't been charged is a mystery to him."

Mr Jackson, who also represents Cooley, said: "Major Dan Taylor [who ordered his men to crack down on looters] was only one of a significant number of senior officers and senior non-commissioned officers promoted since their involvement with Operation Ali Baba."

Sentencing, Judge advocate Michael Hunter said it was "quite possible" that more Iraqis were "hit and assaulted" during Operation Ali Baba, which was intended to round up and put looters to work, and that other perpetrators of abuse had not been bought to justice.

He said: "The officers on this court did not fully accept all the evidence given in the court by every officer and every warrant officer and it may be that there are some of those that gave evidence whose behaviour certainly warrants scrutiny, to say the very least."

General Sir Mike Jackson, speaking after the sentence had been handed down, apologised to the abused Iraqis. He said he was "appalled and disappointed" when he first saw photographs of the Iraqi detainees.

"The incidents depicted are in direct contradiction to the core values and standards of the British Army ... Nevertheless, in the light of the evidence from this trial I do apologize on behalf of the army to those Iraqis who were abused and to the people of Iraq as a whole."

At the early stages of the court martial, the judge advocate took the highly unusual step of calling for a halt to potentially prejudicial statements by public figures after Tony Blair said in the House of Commons that the photographs were "shocking and appalling". The soldiers' legal teams claimed Mr Blair had effectively condemned their clients as "guilty until found guilty".