Thu, Aug 17, 2006 - Page 6 News List

UK soldiers executed for cowardice to be pardoned

AP , LONDON

In this undated image provided by the subject's family, Britain's Private Harry Farr poses for a studio portrait in his military uniform.

PHOTO: AP

British soldiers executed for cowardice during World War I are set to be pardoned, the defense ministry said on Tuesday.

The decision comes after a public effort by the family of a 25-year-old private, who was executed by firing squad in 1916 after he refused to return to the frontlines in World War I.

Relatives, who have battled for decades to clear Harry Farr's name, said their lawyers had received the news from the government.

"We are over the moon," Farr's granddaughter, Janet Booth, said.

The decision is part of a wider decision to seek pardons for more than 300 soldiers who were executed for cowardice during World War I, the ministry said.

Defense Secretary Des Browne said the government would seek parliamentary approval to issue the pardons.

"Although this is a historical matter, I am conscious of how the families of these men feel today. They have had to endure a stigma for decades," Browne said in a statement. "That makes this a moral issue too, and having reviewed it, I believe it is appropriate to seek a statutory pardon."

Farr was 25 when he was shot at dawn in October 1916, one of 306 British soldiers executed for alleged cowardice or desertion during the war. Many of them are believed to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of trench warfare.

The government has expressed regret for the executions in recent years, but has rejected several campaigns to have the soldiers officially pardoned, arguing that it is no longer possible to determine their guilt or innocence.

Farr's daughter, Gertrude Har-ris, went to the High Court last year to press the case for a pardon, arguing that Farr had been diagnosed as suffering from shell shock a year before he was executed.

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