Our son's story: how Iraqi's death led to murder trial for seven Paras

Kim Sengupta
Wednesday 09 February 2005 01:00

Nadhem Abdullah al-Saqer is the Iraqi man seven paratroopers have been accused of murdering.

Nadhem Abdullah al-Saqer is the Iraqi man seven paratroopers have been accused of murdering.

Mr Abdullah, 18, was allegedly beaten to death near a checkpoint at Uzair, north of Basra on 11 May 2003, soon after the official end of the war, in the British-controlled south of the country.

Yesterday his family told The Independent of their grief and incomprehension at what had happened. They said they had not been told by British authorities about the charges being brought in London.

Mr Abdullah's brother, Ali, 22, said: "Our family has not recovered from what has happened to Nadhem. Our mother cries every day. We do not know what is happening and we do not know about this court case. We have not been offered any compensation for our brother's death and no one has explained why it happened."

Mr Abdullah's mother, who is in her late sixties, said: "My son was a good boy and he was not involved in any kind of politics. My life has been destroyed by this. Why did this happen?"

The seven soldiers are serving and former members of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment. Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, said they will stand trial for a joint offence of murder and a second joint charge of violent disorder, contrary to Section 70 of the Army Act and Section 2 of the Public Order Act 1986.

Army prosecutors have investigated more than 160 allegations of abuse by British soldiers in Iraq. More than 40 are still being dealt with, including two cases in which murder charges against four soldiers are said to be pending. Admiral Sir Alan West, the First Sea Lord, and General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the Army, have expressed concern as the number of cases has mounted.

The Abdullah family lives in a rural area south of Amarah, the scene of fierce clashes between insurgents and British forces. A month after the death, six British military policemen were killed while taking refuge at a police station in nearby Majir al-Kabir.

Mr Abdullah had worked as a casual farm worker and helped herd his family's cattle. On the day of his death, he left with a friend, A'athar Finjan in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, being used as a minibus, taking the main road out of Uzair at just after 5pm to go to a market.

The vehicle was stopped at a military roadblock and several passengers are said to have fled. Witnesses said Mr Abdullah and Mr Finjan were kicked in the head and stomach.

After the soldiers left, the Abdullahs say a local man called Essa took their son, who was the more seriously injured, back to his home. Ali said: "We took him to a healthcare centre, but the doctor said he could not help because Nadhem was so badly wounded. He was sent to Amarah Hospital where X-rays showed he had bleeding in his brain and stomach. He died there the next morning.

"We had heard the British soldiers were looking for a car. But Nadhem and the others were in a bus belonging to the State Office so I don't see why there should have been confusion. We did not have any trouble with the Army and Nadhem was not involved with any insurgents or anything like that. We are very angry that he should have died in this way."

The Attorney General has named three of the soldiers charged as Corporal Scott Evans, Private William Nerney, and Daniel Harding, who has now left the Army.

Reports say all those charged will deny the allegations. Some are understood to claim the alleged incident never took place.

The mother of Roberto Di Gregorio, one of those said to be charged, said: "Of course he is not responsible for this. When he was going out to the Gulf, he said to me, 'Mum, remember when you hear about the war going on, I am defending you, my country and the world'."

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