2 British soldiers guilty of Iraq abuse
A military jury convicted two British servicemen Wednesday of involvement in abusing Iraqi civilians after a monthlong court-martial that raised comparisons to abuse by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib prison.
The panel of seven senior officers found Lance Cpl. Mark Cooley, 25, and Cpl. Daniel Kenyon, 33, guilty at the proceeding held at a British base in Germany.
A third defendant, Lance Cpl. Darren Larkin, 30, already pleaded guilty. Sentencing for all three defendants was set for Friday.
The charges related to the abuse of Iraqi civilians suspected of looting a humanitarian aid warehouse guarded by the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers outside the southern city of Basra in May 2003, two months after the U.S.-led war began.
Photos of the abuse provoked dismay in Britain after being published in newspapers, leading to comparisons with the scandal over the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad.
"Everyone finds those photographs shocking and appalling and there are simply no other words to describe them," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said.
Kenyon was convicted of aiding and abetting the beating of a detainee and failing to report an incident in which a bound detainee was hoisted on a forklift. He also was convicted of failing to report that other soldiers forced two stripped Iraqi men to simulate oral sex.
Kenyon faces up two years in prison.
Cooley was convicted of hoisting the man on the forklift and simulating punching a detainee. He also faces up to two years in prison.
Both men, who had pleaded not guilty, stared straight ahead as the verdict was read by the jury foreman, Brig. John Deverell.
Larkin pleaded guilty at the start of the trial to one count of battery, acknowledging he was the man shown in a photo standing with both feet on a tied-up Iraqi lying on the ground. He faces up to six months in prison.
A fourth soldier, Fusilier Gary Bartlam, who took the photos, was sentenced to 18 months following a separate trial in January.
Kenyon was acquitted of aiding and abetting other soldiers who made two male detainees strip and simulate sex. Cooley was acquitted earlier of simulating a kick at a detainee.
Charges against Larkin of forcing two detainees to strip and against Kenyon for aiding and abetting him were dropped earlier in the trial.
Defense attorneys argued that the men were following orders from their commanding officer and had unclear guidance on how to handle common criminals as the army shifted from a combat to a policing role.
The camp commander, Maj. Dan Taylor, testified during the trial that he had directed that detained looters be made to "work hard" ¡ª an order that prosecutors conceded was illegal. But that did not excuse the abuse, they said. Taylor was not charged.
Bartlam, 20, pleaded guilty to three charges ¡ª aiding and abetting Cooley during the forklift incident and taking photos of the naked Iraqis simulating sex on two occasions. Four more serious assault charges were dropped.
Details of his case could only be reported Wednesday after Judge Michael Hunter lifted restrictions imposed for the duration of the Osnabrueck trial.
Britain's Ministry of Defense declined to comment on the trial before sentencing.