The defence in the court martial of three British soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi civilians alleged on Thursday that Fusilier Gary Bartlam, who took the series of graphic photographs which form the bulk of the evidence against them, was the real ringleader.

 

Bartlam, 20, had been due to face charges relating to seven incidents of abusing Iraqis but four charges were dropped in return for him agreeing to give evidence against the three soldiers now on trial, the court heard.

 

He pleaded guilty to the three other charges in a separate court martial but his sentence cannot be reported for legal reasons.

 

Bartlam told the court that Corporal Daniel Kenyon, who commanded a platoon of the Royal Fusiliers, was involved in abusing captured Iraqi looters at Camp Bread Basket, a humanitarian aid camp near the southern city of Basra in May 2003.

 

But in cross-examination, Joseph Giret, Kenyon's defence lawyer, charged Bartlam was "the prime mover in this utterly disgusting treatment of unknown Iraqi males".

 

Bartlam denied this, saying: "I was not the instigator, all I did was take photos."

 

Abu Ghraib similarities

 

The photographs were discovered when Bartlam took a roll of film to be developed at a shop in Staffordshire, central England. A shop worker called the police and Bartlam was arrested.

One UK soldier said his only goal
was to break an Iraqi's arm

 

The images recall abuses by US guards at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and the hearing has focused attention on the behaviour of British forces in Iraq at an especially sensitive time before the country's general election on Sunday.

 

One of the photographs shows two Iraqi men simulating oral sex, while another depicts two naked Iraqis, one kneeling behind the other and giving thumbs-up signs.

 

Bartlam told military police in interviews that he had taken the photographs to "show my mum and dad what was happening over there".

 

Giret said: "You are a disgrace Bartlam ... your conduct on that day and other days was demonstrably disgraceful."

 

Charges dropped

 

The court heard that the four charges against Bartlam that were dropped carried a total prison sentence of 10 years.

 

Giret said the first charge involved aiding and abetting an assault at a British camp in Iraq known as Camp Gecko in April 2003.

The abuse photographs have
embarrassed the British military

 

An as yet unpublished photograph taken by Bartlam shows an unknown British solider waving a machine gun while three kneeling Iraqis bow their heads to the ground.

 

"Did you want to show that photo to your mum?," Giret asked.

 

The second charge involved an incident at another camp, Apache, when Bartlam was said to have poked an Iraqi detainee in the ribs and threatened "if I had my way, you would be dead".

 

The third charge is that he assaulted Iraqis by beating them with poles normally used to support camouflage nets, at Camp Bread Basket on the day of the allegations against the accused. One of the men had "buckled over in pain", Giret said.

 

The fourth dropped charge was for indecent assault against Iraqi men at the same camp.

 

Breaking arms

 

The court also heard that witnesses would testify later that Bartlam boasted he had "made two men shag each other" and gave them electric shocks.

 

Giret said Bartlam additionally boasted to fellow soldiers: "The only thing that I really wanted to do over here is to break someone's arm and now I have done it."

 

One of the photographs shows a captured Iraqi looter lying on the ground holding his arm - Bartlam told the court martial the man had fallen while trying to scale the perimeter wall of the complex.

"The only thing that I really wanted to do over here is to break someone's arm and now I have done it"

Statement attributed to
Fusilier Gary Bartlam

 

Giret said: "You have lied and lied and lied. You made sure that Corporal Kenyon, who was the senior man on the scene, was accused ... because you had to deliver a scalp to the prosecution."

 

In an original statement to investigators, Bartlam said that when Kenyon saw the soldiers forcing the Iraqis to simulate sex, he told them to stop abusing the men.

 

Giret said Bartlam had changed his version of events and implicated Kenyon once he made the deal to be a prosecution witness, but Bartlam said he had changed his statement once he had been given more time to think about it.

 

Kenyon and Lance Corporal Mark Cooley deny all charges, while Lance Corporal Darren Larkin has admitted one assault but denies another charge.