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Four UK soldiers tried for Iraqi death by drowning

Written by: Staff

COLCHESTER, England, Apr 24 (Reuters) A British military court today began hearings in the case of four soldiers accused of manslaughter for forcing an Iraqi prisoner into a canal in Basra where he drowned.

Soldiers James Cooke, 22, Joseph McCleary, 24, Martin McGing, 22, of the Irish Guards and Colour Sergeant Carle Selman of the Coldstream Guards, 39, will face a seven-member court martial panel.

Legal arguments began today, with prosecutors due to present their case later this week in a trial expected to last about six weeks.

The soldiers are accused of manslaughter in the death of Ahmed Kareem, a youth who was among a group of four Iraqis captured as suspected looters in Basra in May 2003.

According to charges against the soldiers, they were on a patrol when they caught the Iraqis and forced them to swim in a canal. Kareem could not swim and drowned.

The four soldiers appeared at a specially arranged makeshift court martial hall in a giant open loft at an army barracks in the town of Colchester, eastern England.

The defendants spoke only to confirm their identities.

The makeshift hall, with galleries for spectators and press, has been equipped with large televisions allowing witnesses to give testimony by video link.

The case is the second high profile trial of British troops for the death of an Iraqi.

In the first, also held in Colchester, seven soldiers were cleared last year of murdering an Iraqi hotel receptionist.

That trial collapsed because Iraqi witnesses -- flown to Britain and given large stipends to cover their travel expenses -- were found to be unreliable.

Reuters SHB VP2222

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