July 13, 2009 / 3:25 PM / 9 years ago

UK opens inquiry into Iraqi detainee's 2003 death

* Inquiry to examine use of banned techniques

* Lawyer says detainees faced "disgusting" conditions



By Catherine Bosley

LONDON, July 13 (Reuters) - Britain launched a public inquiry on Monday into the death of an Iraqi civilian and the alleged mistreatment of nine others at the hands of British soldiers in southern Iraq in September 2003.

Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel clerk, was beaten and died some 24 hours after he and six others were arrested by the British army during a sweep of hotels in the city of Basra looking for weapons.

The inquiry will seek to establish how Mousa came to die and will also examine the British military’s use of banned techniques to attempt to break prisoners during interrogation.

Gerard Elias, a lawyer for Mousa’s family, showed a video to the inquiry which he said was likely shot during the initial hours of the Iraqis’ detention.

In it, several hooded men, their arms bound behind them, can be seen crouching in fear as a man in military uniform shouts at them, using foul language and screaming "get down".

The video was not visible to reporters at the hearing but was broadcast by TV networks.

"There can be little doubt that the detainees were the victims of physical assaults," Elias said in his opening remarks to the public hearing. "There is evidence that the detainees were made to endure disgusting conditions."

A post-mortem revealed Mousa sustained 93 injuries, including a fractured nose and two ribs, though pathologists differ on the exact cause of death.

Some of the other detainees say they were kicked; another says he was scalded with hot water and urinated upon.

A British soldier pleaded guilty to mistreating Mousa in a 2007 court-martial and was sentenced to a year in prison, while six other soldiers were acquitted.

The inquiry is scheduled to continue for the rest of the year. It will look into the precise cause of Mousa’s death as well as who possibly authorised or condoned the mistreatment, which violated military codes of conduct.

Last year Britain’s Ministry of Defence agreed to pay nearly 3 million pounds ($4.83 million) in compensation to a group of Iraqi civilians, including Mousa’s family, who were beaten and tortured by British troops in southern Iraq in 2003.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)



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