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Denmark charges 5 soldiers with Iraqi prisoner abuse
Updated: 2005-01-22 00:54

COPENHAGEN - A Danish intelligence officer and four military police sergeants will stand trial for abuse of Iraqi prisoners at a Danish camp in southern Iraq, the Danish army said on Friday.

Reserve Capt. Annemette Hommel and the four soldiers could face up to one year in prison if found guilty of breaking military law during interrogations last year, the army said.

The abuse inquiry first made headlines in the Scandinavian nation last August and prompted Defense Minister Soren Gade to recall Danish military commanders from Iraq.

Hommel, 37, was sent home in July, before her tour of duty was up, after colleagues complained about the way she interrogated prisoners. She has denied the abuse.

"I will be the first person to be sorry if the military has made mistakes, but now the court process must take it course. No one has been convicted yet," Danish Commander in Chief Jesper Helso said in a statement.

The charges against the Danes follow the prosecution of U.S. and British soldiers for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison and in southern Iraq.

Unlike in the Abu Ghraib case, no images of the Danish abuse have surfaced and many people still support the center-right government's backing of the U.S.-led war.

Army investigators said Hommel and the other soldiers subjected Iraqi prisoners to ill-treatment including verbal humiliation, forcing them to maintain painful postures, and restricting access to food, water and toilets.

Army investigators said the former Danish battalion commander in Iraq, Lt. Col. Henrik Flach, was still under investigation for failing to pass on initial reports of the abuse.

Flach told Danish Ritzau news agency he was surprised Hommel and the others had been charged but did not expect the army to charge him. A trial date for the five soldiers has still to be set.

The future of Danish troops in Iraq has not yet surfaced as an issue in next month's general election, where polls show the government in a comfortable lead. Even in the event of a opposition victory, an immediate withdrawal of the Danish troops is not expected as the current mandate runs through June.

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