Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heat on Hoon to Admit When He Knew of Abuse; AMNESTY SAYS IT REVEALED BRITISH MISTREATMENT IN IRAQ A YEAR AGO

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heat on Hoon to Admit When He Knew of Abuse; AMNESTY SAYS IT REVEALED BRITISH MISTREATMENT IN IRAQ A YEAR AGO

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN LEAPMAN;JAMES LANGTON

GEOFF HOON was under intense pressure today to reveal when he was first told of abuse allegations against British troops.

The Defence Secretary was facing the Commons after Tony Blair issued a stark apology for any mistreatment of prisoners by the Armed Forces.

The Government admitted that it had received a Red Cross report in February detailing allegations of abuse. But ministers were resisting demands for the report to be published.

Amnesty International claimed it had told the Government a year ago that Iraqi prisoners had been mistreated in British custody, with one killed.

In the United States, embattled defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld was set to announce that he is ordering an independent inquiry into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. With calls for his resignation growing, he faced a difficult appearance before members of Congress today in a hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It comes as a new picture was published showing an Iraqi detainee cowering naked while being threatened by dogs in the now-notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

In Britain, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham joined the

debate by calling on political leaders to stop the "shocking misuse of power" by British troops. The Most Rev Vincent Nichols said nothing could justify the "degrading" abuses said to have been committed.

Mr Blair issued his apology in an interview on French television late last night. He said that if any Iraqi prisoners were found to have been abused by British soldiers, such actions were "absolutely and totally unacceptable".

He promised that any soldier found guilty of mistreating prisoners would face the full force of Army discipline. "We apologise deeply to anyone who has been mistreated by any of our soldiers," he said. "Those who are responsible for this - if they behaved in this appalling way - they will be punished according to Army discipline and rules. …

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