05/05/2004

Pictures' authenticity of 'utmost seriousness': Howard

Conservative leader Michael Howard has told parliament that the allegations of torture in the Daily Mirror had done "enormous damage".

Mr Howard told the House of Commons this morning that the authenticity of the pictures was a "matter of the utmost seriousness".

Mr Howard asked Prime Minister Tony Blair if he agreed: "…if [the pictures] turn out to be false it will be a matter of utmost seriousness for which the editor will have to take full responsibility?

Declining to comment on the authenticity of the photographs, Mr Blair agreed that the allegations were "extremely serious", but that he had "every confidence" in the investigation by the Royal Military Police.

He joined in the call by many MPs who have warned that the position of Daily Mirror Editor Piers Morgan would be untenable if the picture proved to be hoaxes.

An investigation into the allegations is being conducted by the Special investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police.

Investigating officers have also been in touch with the Daily Mirror with a view to interviewing journalists, and the newspaper has handed over around 20 photographs.

Yesterday, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said the immediate priority was to establish the truth about the allegations and he urged people with relevant information to come forward.

The Minsiter pledged: "...if British soldiers are found to have acted unlawfully appropriate action would be taken".

(SP)

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