'Betrayal' of an Iraq War Hero; Senior Officer Cleared over Prisoner Abuse Quits Army after Fears of Fresh Inquiry

Article excerpt

THE colonel who was cleared over the abuse of Iraqi civilians in custody has quit the Army over fears that he could face a fresh investigation.

Colonel Jorge Mendonca MBE, the highest-ranking soldier in recent history to face a court martial, was cleared in February after a five-month trial in Bulford, Wiltshire. The court martial, which followed a two-year investigation, prompted bitter accusations that the prosecution was politically motivated.

Now his wife has said he has resigned after learning that he could be the target of a fresh military inquiry. She accused the Army of "a complete and utter betrayal" and said he was being made a scapegoat for the failings of others.

Col Mendonca, 43, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment during the Iraq war, was one of seven officers and soldiers to face charges relating to the alleged abuse in custody of Iraqi civilians.

The prosecution followed the death in custody of hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, one of nine civilians arrested by soldiers of the QLR in Basra in September 2003. Col Mendonca was cleared of negligently performing the duty of ensuring his men did not ill-treat the Iraqi detainees. At the end of the trial, in which almost 100 witnesses gave evidence, only one man was convicted Corporal Donald Payne, who was jailed for a year.

In an interview with the Daily Mail his wife Louise, 38, herself a former Territorial Army major, said: "If my husband's acquittal had been the end of the matter

as it should have been then he would have continued with his career.

"But it is now clear to us that there are those within the Army who are still determined to make him a scapegoat for the failings of others.

"My husband has decided he will not be hounded any more and would rather leave than face further injustice.

"The five-month courtroom farce and the preceding two-year investigation can be described at best as incompetent and at its very worst a complete and utter betrayal." After the trial, Col

Mendonca was told he would not have to face "administrative punishment" the disciplinary process carried out behind closed doors which can lead to an officer's dismissal from the Army. …