'Abused' Iraqis launch action against MoD

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The Independent Online

Fresh allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers are to form part of a second legal action against the Ministry of Defence, lawyers confirmed yesterday.

Fresh allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers are to form part of a second legal action against the Ministry of Defence, lawyers confirmed yesterday.

The new cases follow the claims for compensation brought on Wednesday by the families of 12 Iraqis alleged to have been unlawfully killed by the British Army in Basra. Preliminary hearings in these cases are to begin at the High Court on Tuesday in front of Mr Justice Collins.

Phil Shiner, the solicitor representing all the claimants, said the new cases would be claims for personal injury suffered by Iraqi suspects during three days of questioning by the Army. The cases are expected to be heard in the High Court later this year. The claims include allegations of torture and savage games devised by the soldiers to force the seven men to talk.

In one of the men's accounts, the soldiers are accused of forcing the hooded suspects to stand in the middle of a circle of soldiers who then took it in turns to kick them against a wall. The winner was the soldier who kicked the suspect the furthest.

Kifah Taha, a 44-year-old engineer, the lead case in the personal injury action, describes how he was so badly kicked and beaten that he suffered acute renal failure.

Mr Taha also claims that one of the men, Baha Mousa, 26, later died from his injuries. His testimony is corroborated by Mr Mousa's father, a colonel in the Iraqi police, who has given a witness statement to the British lawyers setting out the events which led to the men's arrest on 14 September last year.

Col Daoud Mousa and Mr Taha both say that the soldiers arrived at a Basra hotel after a tip-off that weapons were being kept in the hotel safe. When they failed to trace the owner of two pistols they rounded up some of men working in and near the hotel.

In the soldiers' quest for the identity and whereabouts of the owner of the weapons they allegedly dragged some of the men into the hotel toilets, where they subjected them to beatings. When they failed to elicit any information the suspects were taken to a security base near Basra for further questioning.

In a statement to Public Interest Lawyers, Mr Shiner's law firm, Col Mousa said: "Kifah tells me of one terrible game the soldiers played involving kick-boxing. The soldiers would surround a detainee and compete as to who could kick-box the detainee the furthest. It seems that the idea was to try to make the detainee crash into the wall."

He added: "At some point my son was taken into another room and I understand that he received more beatings in that room. The detainees were taken for questioning only once in the three-day period. The only question they were asked through the translator was, 'where is Haitham?' (the man the soldiers believed owned the guns placed in the hotel safe).

"On the third night Baha was in a separate room and the other detainees and Kifah could hear him moaning through the walls. He was saying that he was bleeding from his nose and that he was dying. He was then heard to say: 'I am dying...blood...blood...' His voice was not heard again."

Col Mousa's evidence will be used in the claims of unlawful killing of 12 Iraqi prisoners. The case of Baha Mousa will become the 13th case.

Mr Taha's testimony will be part of a separate claim for personal injury. In a statement that will form part of the personal injury legal action, Mr Taha says that the soldiers appeared to be "thoroughly enjoying themselves as the beating was accompanied by loud laughter". He claims that the beatings were concentrated on the neck, chest and genital areas.

Mr Shiner said yesterday that he had recruited a specialist in personal injury claims to appear in court.