Colonel Collins likely to be cleared, MoD reveals

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Indy Politics

Colonel Tim Collins is expected to be cleared of allegations of war crimes in Iraq by an army inquiry.

Investigators from the Royal Military Police have found no evidence that the commander of the Royal Irish Regiment had breached the Geneva Convention. Officers from the Special Investigation Branch are believed to have concluded that charges made against Col Collins by an American reservist, Major Re Biastre, were based on hearsay and could not be corroborated.

The investigation, due to be completed next month, will report to the Army Prosecuting Authority, which in turn will report to the Attorney General. A Ministry of Defence source said: "Nothing has been found to support claims that Colonel Collins contravened the Geneva Convention or committed any crimes or indeed broke the rules of conflict."

Col Collins, 43, was accused by Major Biastre, in a five-page statement, of mistreating prisoners of war, pistol-whipping a Baath party official and shooting the tyres of a looter's lorry.

Major Biastre has admitted he did not witness any of the incidents but heard them mentioned while waiting outside Col Collins' office. He reported them to his US Army superiors who passed them on to their British counterparts.

Major Biastre also complained that British troops had referred to President George Bush as a "cowboy", and to Tony Blair as his "poodle", and stated that the vast majority of British people opposed the war.

A number of Major Biastre's colleagues in the US forces have offered to give evidence on behalf of Col Collins if he faced official charges. One of them, Major Stan Coerr, said he would serve with the colonel "anywhere, anytime". Major Coerr, who led a 14-strong American detachment serving alongside the Royal Irish, added: "This [allegation] is an absolute travesty."