OSNABRUECK, Germany – Three British soldiers were sentenced Friday to as many as two years in prison and dismissed from the military for abusing Iraqi civilians in the southern city of Basra in 2003 — a case that raised comparisons to abuse by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib (search) prison.
Lance Cpl. Mark Cooley was sentenced to two years in prison, Cpl. Daniel Kenyon 18 months and Lance Cpl. Darren Larkin five months. All were dismissed from the service "with disgrace."
A court-martial this week found Kenyon and Cooley guilty of mistreating Iraqi detainees suspected of looting a humanitarian aid warehouse outside Basra (search) in May 2003.
Larkin had previously pleaded guilty.
Judge Michael Hunter and the seven senior officers on the jury rejected pleas for leniency from the men's attorneys.
"When British soldiers in Iraq or anywhere behave as you behaved and abuse power as you did, you cannot expect to receive much leniency," Hunter said. "We recognize you are soldiers who have served your country and served your country well until this moment of madness."
Defense attorneys argued that the soldiers — based in Germany with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (search) — followed a general order to make looters "work hard" and that a general air of cavalier justice "infected" the camp.
Pictures of the abuse, which included an Iraqi hoisted on a forklift and two naked men forced to simulate sexual acts, provoked dismay in Britain after being published in newspapers, leading to comparisons with the scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison.
The photos were taken by another soldier. Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) drew on prosecutors' words to call the images "shocking and appalling."
Cooley, 25, was convicted Wednesday of simulating punching a detainee, an action that was shown in a photograph, and of tying up a detainee and hoisting him on a fork lift.
Kenyon, 34, was convicted of aiding and abetting the abuse and failing to report it.
Larkin, 30, pleaded guilty to battery for standing on top of an Iraqi who was bound and lying on the ground.
Attorneys for the men called on the judge and military jury not to be swayed by public opinion.
"There has been a huge clamor from some quarters of public opinion for dismissal (from the military) and imprisonment," said Joseph Giret, who represents Kenyon. "This is a response not rooted in justice ... that is the lynch mob response."
Fusilier Gary Bartlam, 20, who took the photos that launched the scandal, was sentenced in January to 18 months in a youth prison after a separate trial.