05/05/2004

Troops inquiry must 'take its course,' says Minister

The Armed Forces Minister has said that inquiry into the alleged conduct of some British Troops in Iraq must be allowed to "take its course".

Speaking yesterday, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said that allegations about the conduct of some British troops in Iraq "should not be allowed to colour judgement of the integrity of the Army as a whole".

In a statement to the House of Commons about photographs published in the Daily Mirror which appear to show British soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, the Minister said: "The allegations have been taken seriously and the government will continue to take the photos at face value unless there is evidence to the contrary".

The Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police is currently following up lines of inquiry in Iraq, the UK and Cyprus.

Investigating officers are also in touch with the Daily Mirror, and the newspaper has handed over around 20 photographs.

Mr Ingram said the immediate priority was to establish the truth about the allegations and he urged people with relevant information to come forward.

"The investigation must be allowed to take its course," he said, "and if British soldiers are found to have acted unlawfully appropriate action would be taken".

The Minister also said that other allegations about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners and civilians are being thoroughly investigated, with much of the detailed work being carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

The Minister paid tribute to the thousands of personnel who have served in Iraq over the past 14 months. He said they had done "an exceptional job in testing circumstances, and in turn have secured the support of the majority of Iraqis.

"Their achievement and professionalism are rightly praised world-wide. That is why we must establish the truth or otherwise of these allegations."

(SP)

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