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British Cast Doubt on Iraqi Prisoner Photos - 2004-05-03


Controversy has erupted in Britain over the authenticity of published photographs claiming to show British troops abusing an Iraqi prisoner.

Some British military experts say they believe the photos published by the Daily Mirror newspaper are fakes, but the newspaper denies there has been a hoax.

The photos, first published on Saturday, show what appears to be British soldiers beating and urinating on a man wearing a hood. The newspaper says it obtained the photos from two soldiers of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, and the men stand by their story.

Critics have said the soldiers pictured are not wearing the kind of headgear or carrying the kind of rifle used by the regiment in Iraq, nor do British forces in Iraq use the type of vehicle shown in the photos.

A former commander of the regiment, retired Colonel David Black, told British radio Monday the photos do not look authentic to him. "There are so many inconsistencies, we believe they are faked and they are staged," he says. "We also believe that they were not taken in Iraq itself."

Nonetheless, Mr. Black says the publication of the photos has done what he called "immeasurable" damage to the coalition effort in Iraq. "It's placing the soldiers that are serving there presently under greater danger and greater pressure. And that can never be wound back. I mean it's just too late. The damage is done," he says. "Certainly [for] the insurgents who are opposing the coalition forces, this will be a godsend to them."

The newspaper, which has been a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq, published an editorial Monday accusing its critics of conducting what it described as "a shameful campaign to discredit the report."

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International has weighed in on the controversy, saying it has uncovered what it calls "a pattern of torture" of Iraqi prisoners by both British and U.S. soldiers.

The British military has opened a probe into the Daily Mirror's allegations. And U.S. military prosecutors are preparing criminal cases against six American soldiers accused of abusing inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. A U.S. television network last week broadcast photos allegedly taken at Abu Ghraib showing smiling U.S. soldiers posing with naked Iraqi inmates.