OSNABRUECK, Germany – A British soldier pleaded guilty Tuesday to beating an Iraqi captive, but he and two others pleaded not guilty to all other charges as their court-martial opened on allegations they mistreated detainees.
Photos of alleged mistreatment published in a British newspaper in spring 2003 led to investigations against the three men, and this is the first case of alleged abuse of Iraqis by British soldiers to go to trial.
The defendants, all from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (search), showed little emotion as they entered their pleas at a British base in Germany, answering Judge Michael Hunter only with "guilty" or "not guilty."
Lance Cpl. Darren Larkin (search), 30, pleaded guilty to battery for assaulting and beating an Iraqi in his custody. But he pleaded not guilty to indecent conduct for allegedly forcing two Iraqi detainees to undress in front of others.
He decided to admit to the battery charge because he knew what he did was wrong, his attorney, William England, told the court.
"He is ashamed of his unacceptable and mindless act ... and that he has brought shame to his proud regiment, himself and his family," England said.
Cpl. Daniel Kenyon, 33, and Lance Cpl. Mark Cooley, 25, pleaded not guilty to all charges.
It was the first time the charges were officially announced, and it was not immediately clear what possible punishments the soldiers face.
The abuse allegedly happened in May 2003 while the three soldiers were stationed at a food warehouse compound outside Basra (search) in southern Iraq, according to British media reports.
Cooley is accused of placing an Iraqi captive with bound hands on the front of a forklift and driving it around, and simulating punching and kicking a detainee while someone else took photographs.
Kenyon, who outranks the other defendants, is accused of being present while abuse was taking place — including naked captives being forced into simulated sex acts — and not reporting it. He also faces a charge of being an accessory in the battery to which Larkin pleaded guilty.
A fourth soldier, 20-year-old Fusilier Gary Bartlam, went on trial last week in the same case at a different British base in Germany, but Hunter imposed a gag order on journalists, banning any reporting about the process. Bartlam, whose grade is equivalent to private, is the lowest ranking of the four.
On Saturday, U.S. Army Spc. Charles Graner Jr. (search) was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the first trial stemming from the scandal over abuse of Abu Ghraib detainees.