'I was beaten for three days by British soldiers'

By Cahal Milmo

08 May 2004

Independent

An Iraqi prisoner has described how he was allegedly subjected to vicious beatings by laughing British soldiers during interrogation sessions which left another man dead.

In a witness statement obtained by The Independent, Kifah Talah, 44, an engineer, claims he was hooded and beaten about the neck, chest and genitals by soldiers during three days before being made to dance in front of his tormentors.

The first witness account of torture at the hands of UK troops in Iraq came as the Government faced a series of new claims about ill-treatment of prisoners by rogue members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (QLR).

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that it was investigating the claims of "Soldier C", a Territorial Army reservist attached to the regiment in southern Iraq last year, who told the Daily Mirror he had seen soldiers torturing four Iraqi men.

An MoD spokesman said: "This man has been interviewed by Royal Military Police and his testimony will form part of our ongoing and exhaustive investigations."

The renewed inquiry came as Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, offered his "deepest apology" to the victims of abuse in Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad.

An unusually contrite Mr Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "They are human beings, they were in US custody, we had an obligation to treat them right. We didn't. That was wrong."

Mr Rumsfeld revealed that there were many more photographs and videotapes showing sadistic acts by American personnel which have not yet been published.

In London, military chiefs said that Soldier C, who has given military police the names and ranks of those he says were involved, was probably referring to the alleged beating of Mr Talah and others arrested in a raid on a hotel by a QLR search team looking for hidden weapons last September.

Mr Talah said he was among seven men taken to an interrogation centre where they were tortured and humiliated by up to eight soldiers at a time.

In a witness statement to be presented to the High Court in London next week as part of a compensation claim, he said: "When we entered the base, the soldiers accompanying us shouted 'terrorists, terrorists!'. The soldiers appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves as the beating was accompanied by loud laughter."

The engineer, who claims his injuries were so severe that he suffered renal failure, said he and six other detainees were made to hold out their arms horizontally and were beaten when they failed to do so for more than a few minutes. He added: "One terrible game played involved kick-boxing. The soldiers would surround us and compete as to who could kick-box one of us furthest. The idea was to try and make us crash into the wall."

The statement, part of an action being brought on behalf of the families of 13 Iraqis allegedly killed by British troops, describes how the men were covered with hoods, had freezing water poured over them and given inedible spicy food.

Mr Talah, first interviewed by The Independent on Sunday, claims each of the detainees was given the name of a famous footballer, such as Marco Van Basten or Ruud Gullit, and they were beaten if they failed to remember it. One soldier allegedly told them to "dance like Michael Jackson". Basa Mousa, 26, a hotel receptionist, died of his injuries.