Paras 'Laughed and Clapped after They Left an Iraqi to Die'; Seven Soldiers Face Court Martial Charged with Murder
Byline: MATTHEW HICKLEY
BRITISH Paratroopers brutally beat an Iraqi civilian then 'laughed and clapped' as they walked away leaving him dying on the ground, a court martial heard yesterday.
Seven soldiers are jointly charged with murdering 18-year-old Nadhem Abdullah in a remote Iraqi village shortly after the end of the war in 2003.
They are also charged with beating and assaulting other civilians who tried to intervene, including a pregnant woman.
The men from the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment used 'their rifle butts, their helmets, their fists and their feet' in the unprovoked attack, it is claimed.
All the Paras deny the charges, and the ten-week court martial is to be the most expensive-in British legal history, with costs predicted to top [pounds sterling]2million.
Opening the case yesterday, the prosecution claimed the assaults were 'nothing more than gratuitous violence meted out to innocent and unarmed civilians', as none of the victims were armed or posed any threat.
Prosecutor Martin Heslop, QC, told the Colchester hearing: 'This is not a case of soldiers responding under attack, nor of being required to defend themselves in an operational engagement.' He spelt out in graphic detail how the seven men, tasked with keeping the peace in lawless and 'dangerous' areas of southern Iraq in the aftermath of the war, carried out the alleged attacks while on patrol on May 11, 2003.
The defendants are Corporal Scott Evans, 32, who was in charge of the patrol, Private Billy Nerney, 24, Private Samuel May, 25, Private Morne Vosloo, 26, and former Privates Daniel Harding, 25, Scott Jackson, 26, and Roberto Di-Gregorio, 24, who have since left the Army.
In a sign of the importance of the case, all seven are being defended by QCs.
The court heard how the Para patrol, code-named Delta Two-One Charlie, was manning a vehicle checkpoint looking for smugglers and insurgents on the afternoon of the alleged murder.
They allegedly followed a Toyota truck being used as a taxi by locals into the remote Marsh Arab village of Al Ferkah, north of Basra - possibly after mistaking it for a similar white truck which had earlier 'avoided' their roadblock.
Driving in two Army vehicles, the soldiers boxed the Toyota in and dragged out Nadhem Abdullah, along with taxi driver Athar Fennjan Saddam, forcing them to lie on the ground. While some of the Paras kept watch, others beat the two men 'using their fists, their feet, their helmets and their rifles'.
Neither of the Iraqis resisted, the court heard, and both lost consciousness.
The soldiers are also accused of hitting two women who tried to intervene.
One was pregnant, while the other had given birth only three days earlier, and was allegedly hit in the mouth.
Two other Iraqi men travelling in the Toyota taxi walked away, but were caught and similarly beaten.
Mr Heslop told the panel of seven servicemen and women who form the jury how when a dog began barking at the soldiers one of them shot it dead - the only shot fired during the incident. …