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Probe into 'abuse victims' claims


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(CNN) -- British defense officials are investigating accounts given by five men who claim to be the victims of an abuse scandal at a British base in Iraq.

Three British soldiers were due to be sentenced Friday at a court-martial in Germany after being found guilty of abusing Iraqi prisoners at the camp.

The Independent and Daily Mail newspapers tracked down the five men, who say they are the prisoners who appear in "trophy" photographs taken by a British soldier at the humanitarian aid facility in Basra, southern Iraq, in 2003.

The Daily Mail said the men planned to sue the British government over their ordeal.

However, a UK Ministry of Defence spokesman told CNN the organization mounted a through investigation at the time and the men had not come forward.

"We cannot speculate on the reasons for this," the spokesman said.

The five Iraqi men told the newspapers they did not know that a court martial over abuse against them was taking place and had not been contacted about the case.

They gave details of the abuse and their injuries and said they were willing to be checked by British doctors.

None of the victims gave evidence during the trial, which the Royal Military Police said was because officers were unable to trace the men.

However, the newspapers said they found the men living about a mile from the camp within days.

An MoD statement said: "The information in the articles is not being ignored. The Special Investigations Branch of the Royal Military Police is reviewing the material and has instigated an investigation which will look at the allegations and act on any substantive evidence."

However, the MoD spokesman told CNN that "timely and extensive" inquiries had been carried out through humanitarian groups, police, local employers and recreation groups, and no one had come forward.

Three British soldiers, from the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, face imprisonment and being thrown out of the British army at the court-martial at a UK army base at Osnabrueck, Germany on Friday.

Cpl. Daniel Kenyon and Lance Cpl. Mark Cooley were found guilty of taking part in the mistreatment of captured looters at Camp Bread Basket, in Basra, in May 2003.

At the end of the five-week court-martial, Cooley was convicted of simulating punching a prisoner and putting a trussed-up man on a forklift truck.

Kenyon was convicted of aiding and abetting in a beating and failing to report both the incident of the simulated sex act and that involving the forklift truck.

Lance Cpl. Darren Larkin, 30, pleaded guilty to assaulting an Iraqi prisoner.

Photographs, including humiliating sexual images of naked Iraqis, were taken by another soldier, Gary Bartlam, 20, who then took them to be developed at a shop in his hometown of Tamworth, Staffordshire, where an assistant called in police.

At a separate court-martial last month in Hohne, Germany, Bartlam was ordered to be detained at a youth detention facility for 18 months and disgracefully discharged from the army.

The judge in charge of the courts-martial said the men's "brutal," "cruel" and "revolting" behavior had "undoubtedly tarnished the international reputation of the British Army and to some extent the British nation too."


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