British ex-minister was 'shocked' by Iraqi death
A British former defence secretary told an inquiry Thursday he was "deeply shocked" to discover that an Iraqi man was hooded and allegedly fatally beaten by British troops in 2003.
Geoff Hoon, who held the job between 1999 and 2005, was giving evidence at an inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist.
He died in September 2003 after 36 hours in British military custody, having suffered 93 separate injuries.
"I was clearly deeply shocked that a man had died in such circumstances at the hands of apparently British soldiers," Hoon told the inquiry.
"I was aware hooding was an issue in his death, I was shocked and concerned that that should have happened."
Following a six-month court martial over the case in 2007, six soldiers were cleared but a seventh admitted inhumane treatment, was jailed for a year and dismissed from the army.
The hearing has heard that British soldiers used banned conditioning techniques on Iraqis in custody, including hooding, sleep deprivation and forcing them to stand in stress positions.
Hoon also denied ever having seen video footage of hooded Iraqi prisoners apparently including Mousa being abused by a British soldier before, despite it being widely screened by the media.
The film shows six prisoners with sandbags on their heads moaning as they are forced to hold stress positions.
"If it is what it appears to be, it looks pretty appalling," Hoon said, after seeing the footage. "If British soldiers engaged in that it's reprehensible."
Britain provided the second largest contingent of troops to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 with a deployment which peaked at 46,000.
It ended combat operations in Iraq in April 2009, when all but a handful of British soldiers started returning home.
© 2010 AFP