A military court in Britain has cleared three soldiers of criminal charges in connection to the drowning death of a teenage looting suspect in Iraq.

The soldiers were charged with manslaughter after the 15-year-old boy drowned in a canal in Basra in May 2003.

A fourth soldier was cleared of the charges last month.

Prosecutors accused the soldiers of forcing the teenager, and three other Iraqis, into the canal to punish them for suspected looting.

Defense lawyers said the soldiers were poorly prepared to occupy southern Iraq and were using what was deemed the minimum force necessary to maintain order with insufficient resources.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said that the soldiers are now free to pursue their military careers.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.