"There are four soldiers. The charges include assault, indecent assault and the military charge of prejudicing good order and military discipline," a spokeswoman for the Attorney-General told reporters on Monday. 

In a statement, the Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith said the charges against the four included apparently making their victims perform sexual acts with each other. 

"The case concerns conduct alleged to have occurred whilst the civilians were being temporarily detained, but not in a prison or detention facility," it said. 

"It involves photographic evidence developed in this country and referred to the UK police," it added. 

The statement said the trial would be held in a military court and be open to the public. No date had been set.
 
The British government said last week that military police are investigating 30 cases of alleged abuse, civilian deaths and injuries in Iraq. A further 37 probes had been completed and no further action was being taken.

US hearings

Meanwhile, a US Army court will hold pretrial hearings next week in Baghdad for three soldiers charged with abusing Iraqi inmates in Abu Ghraib prison, an occupation legal officer said.

The hearings will be held between 21-23 June in the heavily guarded Green Zone headquarters of the US occupation authority, the officer told reporters on condition of anonymity. 

The abuse scandal broke in April
with the publication of photos

The three soldiers include Spc Charles A Graner Jr, 35, Staff Sgt Ivan L "Chip" Frederick II, 37, and Sgt Javal S Davis, 26, the officer said. 

A hearing for a fourth soldier, Army reservist Pfc Lynndie England, 21, will be held separately on 22 June at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where she is now stationed. 

In all, seven soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, based in Cresaptown, Maryland, have been charged with abuse since the scandal broke in April with the publication of photos depicting prisoners suffering sexual humiliation and abuse at the hands of American military police serving as guards. 

Trial date

During three separate pretrial hearings in Baghdad next week, lawyers will be able to file motions, request a change of venue, call witnesses to testify or introduce evidence - "things that they need to do in order to go to trial at some later date," the officer said. 

A trial date could be announced at the hearings, or more hearings could be held later. 

The Article 32 court hearings are called by the commanding officer of a soldier's unit to determine whether to recommend a court-martial or other punishment under military law. It is similar to a civilian grand jury in the United States. 

Graner, Frederick and Davis were arraigned on 19 May, the same day a special court-martial sentenced Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, the first defendant to go on trial in the Abu Ghraib case, to a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a bad conduct discharge. 

Guilty

Sivits, 24, was found guilty of two counts of mistreating detainees; dereliction of duty for failing to protect them from abuse and cruelty; and forcing a prisoner "to be positioned in a pile on the floor to be assaulted by other soldiers," a military briefer said after his court-martial.

Pfc Lynndie England is charged
with assaulting Iraqi detainees

Sivits' testimony will be used to prosecute other Americans accused of mistreating prisoners. 

While Sivits faced what the Army calls a special court-martial, similar to a misdemeanor trial, the six others will probably face general courts-martial, which can yield more severe punishments. 

During their 19 May arraignment, Davis, Frederick and Graner waived their rights to have charges read aloud and their pleas were deferred. Testifying the same day, Sivits said he saw Davis stomping on the toes and hands of a group of prisoners laying on the floor with sandbags over their heads. He said Graner had punched one detainee in the head. 

England is charged with assaulting Iraqi detainees, conspiring with Graner to mistreat the prisoners and committing an indecent act by forcing prisoners to masturbate. Graner is also charged with adultery for having sex with England last October. 

England appeared in notorious photographs in which she pointed at Iraqi prisoners' genitals and held a leash attached to a prisoner.