Senior British politicians have expressed shock and disgust over a series of photos published in the nation's newspapers allegedly showing British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners. The case is being described as Britain's version of the Abu Graib prison scandal.
The photos have been released in conjunction with the court martial trial in Germany of three British soldiers charged with abusing Iraqi prisoners.
The photos, taken by one of the accused servicemen, depict Iraqi prisoners bound, naked, and apparently forced to pose in sexually humiliating positions.
Prime Minister Tony Blair denounced the photos during his weekly appearance to answer questions in parliament.
"Everyone finds those photographs shocking and appalling and there are simply are no other words to describe them," Mr. Blair said.
Mr. Blair said he hopes the Iraqi people will be satisfied that the British army has put the accused soldiers on trial.
"I think and hope that people in Iraq do understand that the very fact that we are taking this action and prosecuting people who we believe may have been guilty of offenses indicates that we do not tolerate this type of activity in any way or shape at all," he said.
Mr. Blair said the vast majority of the 65,000 British troops who have served in Iraq have done so honorably.
The leader of the opposition Conservative Party, Michael Howard, agreed with Mr. Blair on that point.
"The appalling photographs in today's newspapers bring shame on our country, but we should recognize that they in no way reflect the true character of Britain's armed forces," he said.
But the leader of Britain's third party, Charles Kennedy of the Liberal Democrats, says British troops in Iraq may find their mission more dangerous because of the photos.
"Their very circulation is liable to increase the difficulties and the dangers for our existing troops, our good troops, honorable troops within Iraq itself," he said.
The photos have been widely circulated by Arabic-language media, and they are being compared by some commentators to the pictures that emerged last year of inmate abuses by American military guards at Iraq's Abu Graib prison.
The Muslim Association of Britain, which opposed the invasion of Iraq, accuses the British troops of what a statement calls "immoral behavior." The group says senior British politicians bear some of the responsibility, because they planned and ordered the war.