British soldiers pictured abusing Iraqis

Images of British torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners have emerged as three British soldiers went on military trial Tuesday for their actions.

Photos taken in May 2003 by British soldiers showed a bound Iraqi being dangled over a loading dock by a forklift, another being subjected to a simulated kick and both Iraqis stripped and simulating sexual acts together.

The photos came out after a soldier took a roll of film to be developed to his local photo lab, who alerted police. British military officials successfully suppressed the images, and the related controversy, until today.

The defendants, all from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, said they were following orders. One has pleaded guilty to assault.

The events allegedly happened on a single day at a warehouse compound west of Basra. The compound’s commander had given orders to capture looters and make them “work hard”, a euphemism for torture and beatings.

Gen. Mike Jackson, the British army’s top officer, claimed the abuse allegations involved only a small number of soldiers.

“We condemn utterly all acts of abuse,” he said in London. “Where there is evidence of abuse this is investigated immediately.”

The actions of British soldiers in Iraq have been compared with similar abuses in the north of Ireland. In particular, the family of Peter McBride, murdered by British soldiers in Belfast in 1992, will be following the case.

The soldiers, Mark Wright and James Fisher, were both convicted of Peter’s murder and sentenced to the mandatory life imprisonment. Yet, despite the serious nature of their crime, both soldiers were released within six years and reinstated within the regiment.

Peter’s mother, Jean McBride is raising questions after the U.S. Defense Department awarded a private security contract in Iraq to Wright and Fisher’s commanding officer at the time, Tim Spicer. He had falsely suggested, at their trial, that the murdered man had been carrying a bomb.

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