Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Army Wanted a Scapegoat and Charged My Husband'; Colonel's Wife Accuses Military of Witch-Hunt

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Army Wanted a Scapegoat and Charged My Husband'; Colonel's Wife Accuses Military of Witch-Hunt

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN FARMER;VALENTINE LOW

THE WIFE of an Army colonel facing court martial over the death of an Iraqi in custody claimed today her husband was being made a scapegoat.

Louise Mendonca said he was only charged because Army chiefs and politicians wanted senior officers on trial alongside their men. But his treatment had been "appalling" and the affair had done the Army "irreparable harm", she said.

Colonel Jorge Mendonca, 41, was charged following the death of hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, 26, who was allegedly beaten to death in the custody of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment in 2003.

The colonel received a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) medal in June last year for his bravery and leadership during the regiment's deployment in Basra.

More than a year later - and nearly two years after Mr Mousa's death - he was told he would face a court martial for negligence in failing to prevent abuse.

Three of Col Mendonca's men face charges of war crimes relating to the inhumane treatment of detainees under the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

One of the three, Corporal Donald Payne, 34, faces a charge of manslaughter.

If Col Mendonca is found guilty, he faces jail and the loss of his DSO medal.

His wife, a former major who served 16 years in the Territorial Army, said today: "It is appalling the way Jorge has been treated and it would be understandable if he threw in the towel now, but his reaction to this awfulness has been incredible. His sense of duty and loyalty ... is extraordinary."

Describing her reaction to the news, she said: "At first I laughed, thinking it was a joke. But then I said, 'They gave you a DSO and now they are charging you with war crimes.'" Her claim that Col Mendonca is being made a scapegoat appears to be backed up by a letter suggesting the Army made a determined bid to find evidence against senior officers who could be held responsible for the alleged misconduct of their troops in Iraq.

After Mr Mousa's death Col Mendonca immediately ordered an inquiry by the Royal Military Police, and four soldiers were reported in May last year. …

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