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Middle east

Inquiry opens into death of Iraqi man in UK custody

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-14

A UK inquiry into the death of an Iraqi man in British custody opened Monday, with a video showing a British soldier screaming at hooded prisoners. The soldier pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians at a court martial in 2006 and was jailed.

AFP - A public inquiry into the death of an Iraqi man in British custody was shown a video of a British soldier screaming at hooded prisoners on Monday.
  
The first day of the wide-ranging inquiry in central London heard that Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist who died in Basra, southern Iraq, died after a "struggle" with two soldiers.
  
Mousa sustained 93 injuries including a broken nose and fractured ribs.
  
The video showed one of the two soldiers, Corporal Donald Payne, who was jailed for inhumane treatment in 2007, screaming abuse at Iraqi detainees as they were forced to maintain painful "stress positions".
  
Gerard Elias, the head of the legal team at the inquiry, said witnesses had suggested that Payne was trying to restrain Mousa by putting his knee on the detainee's back and pulling his arm back to put plastic handcuffs on him.
  
Elias said: "It has been suggested that Baha Mousa's head was banged on the floor or wall as this was happening."
  
Pathologists gave varying causes of death for Mousa, ranging from a combination of asphyxia and multiple injuries or asphyxia alone, the inquiry heard.
  
Payne became the first member of the British armed forces to admit a war crime when he pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians at a court martial in September 2006.
  
He was dismissed from the army and sentenced to one year in a civilian prison.
  
Elias said the Iraqi detainees claimed the abuse started immediately after they were arrested by British troops at the Ibn Al Haitham hotel six months after the US-led invasion of Iraq.
  
He said: "Some of them allege that they and Baha Mousa were stepped on when they were made to lie on the floor of the lobby."
  
Some detainees claimed they were urinated on and forced to lie face down over a hole in the ground filled with excrement, he said.
  
Detailing other abuses, Elias said: "One man says he was made to dance in the style of Michael Jackson."
  
He added: "There was shouting, moaning, even screaming coming from the TDF (temporary detention facility) from time to time during the detention, according to some witnesses."
  
The inquiry would also hear "scandalous accounts" of detainees being forced to scream in an "orchestrated choir", Elias said.
  
Mousa's father Daoud, an Iraqi police colonel, said he hoped the probe would bring "accountability" for his son's death.
  
Seven British troops faced a court martial over the Mousa case in 2007 but all were cleared except Payne.
  
The court martial heard a claim from a British major that he was instructed to use "conditioning" techniques to soften up detainees for interrogation by those higher up the chain of command.
  
Britain's Ministry of Defence has agreed to pay nearly three million pounds (3.5 million euros, 4.8 million dollars) in compensation to the families of Mousa and nine other Iraqis mistreated by British troops.
  
An official report last year focused on the deaths of four Iraqi civilians in British custody in Iraq and found no evidence of systematic abuse but said the army needs to find better ways of instilling discipline and high standards of behaviour in troops.

Date created : 2009-07-14

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