Three British soldiers were jailed and dishonorably dismissed from the army Friday for abusing Iraqi civilians in a case compared with the mistreatment of prisoners by US guards at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
Lance Corporal Mark Cooley was sentenced to two years in jail
In London, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and army chief General Mike Jackson apologized to all Iraqis, including those who were abused, after the sentencing of the soldiers, who received terms of between five months and two years.
Jackson said he had been "appalled and disappointed" when he first saw the photographs of the Iraqi victims produced as evidence at the trial. Hoon said he was "profoundly disturbed" by the photographs, adding that he agreed with Jackson "that the incidents depicted do not reflect typical behavior standards of the British Army.
"We also agree that it is right to apologize on behalf of the
army to the victims and the people of Iraq," Hoon said, adding 22 soldiers in all, including those sentenced Friday,
were involved in abuse allegations.
"The army sets high standards and demand that they are met. The recent court martial has demonstrated that those who fail to meet those standards are called to account," Hoon said. "The vast majority of service men and women do, however, perform to the very highest of standards. Their service in Iraq has been outstanding and we are right to be proud of this," the defense minister said.
The most senior of the trio sentenced here, Corporal Daniel Kenyon, 33, was given an 18-month prison sentence after being found guilty of three charges including failing to report the mistreatment of captured looters at an aid camp near Basra in May 2003.
Lance Corporal Mark Cooley, 25, was sentenced to two years in jail after being found guilty of two charges including driving a forklift truck with a bound Iraqi suspended from the prongs.
A series of photos
Lance corporal Larkin standing on an Iraqi detainee and corporal Kenyon taking a photograph.
A photograph of the helpless Iraqi dangling from the forklift was among a series of photos taken by soldiers at the aid camp known as Camp Bread Basket. Other photographs showed naked Iraqi men being forced to simulate sex.
The third defendant, Lance Corporal Darren Larkin, 30, was sentenced to 140 days, just under five months, in jail after he pleaded guilty to assault. He had been pictured standing on an Iraqi.
All three soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers were
dishonorably discharged from the army by a panel of seven senior officers and a judge at the court martial in an army barracks in northern Germany.
The abuse came to light when another soldier submitted a film of the photographs for development at a shop in England. A shop worker called the police after being shocked by the images.
The soldier who took the photographs, Fusilier Gary Bartlam, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and discharged from the army in an earlier court martial.
In sentencing, Judge Advocate Michael Hunter said that an operation launched by the soldiers' superior officers to detain the looters had gone "much further than was intended". But he said what happened "could have been avoided".
"What you did was not done to discourage the looting, it was done to produce trophy photographs," he said, adding that some of those involved in the abuse had not been brought to justice.
The images of the abuse prompted comparisons with the
mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, which was depicted in a series of photographs taken by US guards.
The British press has criticized the fact that all the officers
who planned or supervised the operation to round up the looters, known as Operation Ali Baba, have since been promoted. Prosecution lawyers told the court martial that the order to work the looters "hard" contravened the Geneva Convention.
Major Dan Taylor told the trial he had denied ordering that the Iraqis be "beasted", a term used by the British army to indicate making someone work until they are exhausted.
Taylor admitted however he had thrown away notebooks containing information on the operation because he had moved to a smaller house. The image of the British army in Iraq, the biggest contingent in the violence-wracked country after the Americans, was set to suffer more damage.
Seven soldiers from the 3rd Parachute Regiment have already been charged with murder and violent disorder, and faced courts martial over the death of an Iraqi civilian in southern Iraq around the time of the incidents examined in the Osnabrueck trial.
The Times newspaper said on Thursday that as many as 11 more soldiers could face court martial over a beating in which an Iraqi civilian died, and other instances of abuse.