Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper has printed photographs apparently showing troops urinating on a prisoner and beating him. The authenticity of the pictures has been questioned but
the paper has since published evidence from a soldier who said he had witnessed savage beatings of Iraqis. 

"There are strong indications that the vehicle in which the photographs were taken was not in Iraq during the relevant
period," Hoon said. "Additional lines of inquiry are being pursued to corroborate this." 

He also said that two other cases of mistreatment could soon lead to prosecutions.

"I can confirm today that two cases have reached an advanced stage with decisions on prosecutions pending," Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told parliament on Monday.

Human rights reports

The Mirror photos kick-started allegations of British
mistreatment of Iraqis but human rights group Amnesty
International and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) say British authorities were told of serious complaints
months ago. 

British Defence Secretary Hoon
says case are being investigated  

An ICRC report was posted on the Wall Street Journal Web site on Monday and confirmed as genuine by the Geneva-based body which said Britain had received it in February. 

Although much of the abuse described in the Red Cross report appears to have taken place in jails run by US forces, it also described the death of an Iraqi prisoner in custody in the British zone Basra last September. 

Officials said the allegation referred to the death of an Iraqi detainee named Baha Musa, which Britain says it has been investigating since last year. 

'Thorough investigation'

"By the time the ICRC referred to the case in their February
report, a thorough investigation was well under way," Hoon said. 

"We unreservedly apologise to any Iraqis where the evidence shows they have been mistreated"

Geoff Hoon,
British Defence Secretary  

"The case is currently with the Army Legal Services for consideration." 

Hoon said Red Cross worries about "hooding" of prisoners had been accepted - the practice was ended in September last year. 

"It is fair to say that the ICRC are generally satisfied with our approach and that they described conditions of internment as 'fairly good,'" he said. 

Allegations of abuse from elsewhere had prompted the British authorities to trawl the records of its units in Iraq, a process that will last a few more weeks, he said. 

"We unreservedly apologise to any Iraqis where the evidence shows they have been mistreated," Hoon said.