LONDON – Seven British soldiers will stand trial on charges of murder for the killing of an Iraqi civilian in 2003, Britain's attorney general said Thursday.
Lord Goldsmith (search) said the soldiers would face court-martial in connection with the death of Nadhem Abdullah (search) on May 11, 2003, in Al U'Zayra in southern Iraq. He gave no further details of the man's death, other than that it occurred at a roadside.
The seven soldiers were members of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment (search), Goldsmith said in a statement to Parliament.
Corporal Scott Evans, Private William Nerney and Daniel Harding, who is now a civilian, together with four men whose names have not yet been disclosed, have been charged with murder and violent disorder, the statement said.
No date was set for a court martial or preliminary hearing.
Meanwhile, prosecutors at a British base in Germany dropped the remaining charge against one of three soldiers standing trial on allegations of abusing Iraqi captives on Thursday, saying they couldn't prove he was the one who forced two detainees to strip and simulate sex acts.
Lance Cpl. Darren Larkin, 30, has already pleaded guilty to one count of battery after prosecutors alleged he was the man shown in a photo standing with both feet on a tied-up Iraqi lying on the ground. Prosecutors dropped a second charge after a witness said he was unsure about his identification of Larkin.
Charges of aiding and abetting Larkin were also dropped against Cpl. Daniel Kenyon, 33, who still has five charges remaining against him. He has denied the charges.
Larkin, Kenyon and Lance Cpl. Mark Cooley, all from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (search), are facing charges they abused Iraqis detained on suspicion of looting a humanitarian aid warehouse outside Basra in May 2003.
According to transcripts read in court, Cooley told investigators he was using the forklift to take the captive to a shady area. He admitted pretending to punch an Iraqi, saying he thought the photo "would be something to take back, something to boast about."
The trial revolves around photos taken by a soldier who was arrested in England after bringing the film to be developed. The pictures provoked widespread dismay in Britain after they were published in newspapers, leading to uncomfortable comparisons with the scandal over abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
A fourth soldier, Fusilier Gary Bartlam, who took the photos that prompted the investigation, has been sentenced in the case. The judge, Michael Hunter, has imposed restrictions on Bartlam's trial that bar reporting of details.
Britain, which has some 9,000 troops in Iraq, has launched 160 investigations into deaths and injuries since the U.S.-led invasion, ranging from incidents such as road traffic accidents to people injured when soldiers returned fire.
The majority of those investigations have been closed with no further action being taken; 48 are ongoing and prosecuting authorities are currently discussing whether a further nine cases should be brought forward for prosecution, the defense department said.