The father of the British soldier suspected of abusing Iraqi prisoners of war said yesterday he was proud of his son for going off to fight for his country. Gary Bartlam, 18, from Polesworth in Warwickshire, is being questioned by military police after photographs appearing to show a number of PoWs being abused were spotted by staff at a photo developers.
Speaking outside the general store in Dordon, Warwickshire, which he runs with his wife, Margaret, Mr Bartlam said: "Of course we are proud of our son. He went out to Iraq for his country and we are proud of him."
But Mrs Bartlam appeared at an upstairs window of the shop to declare: "He does not belong to us any more. The Army is his mother. It's the Army which looks after him."
The Ministry of Defence has promised to widen its investigation into the maltreatment of Iraqi PoWs if further claims are made. It is deeply embarrassed by the allegations after going to great lengths to show their humane treatment and has promised a thorough investigation.
One of the pictures is believed to show a bound and gagged PoW hanging in netting from a forklift truck which is being driven by a laughing soldier. Other pictures are said to detail sexual abuse of prisoners.
The soldier, a member of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, is being held after an assistant in the Max Spielman processing shop in Tamworth noticed the pictures which Fusilier Bartlam had brought in.
The assistant, Kelly Tilford, 22, said she "felt sick" when she saw them. She called the police who called in the MoD.
The human rights group Amnesty International welcomed the inquiry and stressed that torture allegations must not be "swept under the carpet".
Yesterday, the MoD said: "This is now a matter for the Special Investigation Branch. But we will have to wait and see if they deem it necessary to broaden the search."
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