Thu, Feb 16, 2006 - Page 6 News List

British soldiers arrested over Basra abuse row

TRIAL BY VIDEO The British defense ministry confirmed on Tuesday that soldiers had been arrested, while Basra's council said that it was severing all relations with Britain

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Three soldiers were arrested on Tuesday in connection with the video of British troops allegedly abusing Iraqis in the northern town of Amara in 2004. The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) said three individuals who "might be implicated in the allegations had been detained."

The arrests came as Basra provincial council severed all relations with Britain and two of the alleged victims of abuse came forward to identify themselves and demand compensation. Protesters marched on the British consulate in Basra and burned the British flag.

They carried flags and banners reading "No, no to Tony Blair" and "Try the British soldiers involved in this aggression." The council said in a statement: "All governmental offices will cut all kinds of relations with the British forces and they will not cooperate with them until further notice."

Last night the MoD said: "The military police have identified several people in the video and investigations are ongoing to identify all those involved in the alleged incident."

The father of the soldier believed to have recorded the video defended his son and called for troops to be brought out of Iraq.

Corporal Martin Webster of the 1st Battalion the Light Infantry was arrested on Sunday by military police officers after the exposure of the video by the News of the World, a British tabloid.

Jim Webster said he did not know why his son took the footage or indeed if it was his voice talking over the events.

"People don't understand what's going on out there in Basra. Martin is in the firing line -- it's easy for the politicians to throw mud but my son's out there on the ground. The politicians don't have a clue what is going on. I don't think the troops should be out there," he said.

He added: "My son is not a bad boy. He's dug himself into a pit and he's got to find his way back out again -- but we will support him."

In Basra, council official Nadhim al-Jabiri said cooperation with the British consulate there would end. Major General Hassan Suwadi, the city's police chief, said all Iraqi security forces would stop conducting joint patrols with the British military in the province.

He said: "We condemn the abuse of the British forces and demand the British government adopt legal procedures as soon as possible to punish its soldiers who carried out the abuse."

At a press conference at the office of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the two Iraqis who claim to have been among those beaten said they would take legal action. Bassem Shaker, 27, said: "I was one of 250 unemployed people demonstrating in the street in 2004, but when we reached the governor's office we were surprised by the presence of the British forces. We started throwing stones at them because we believed that they were behind all our misery."

Riyadh Mahoud, the governor of Amara, said local authorities were helping the purported victims sue.

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