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Danish soldiers in Iraq acquited of abuse

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07/06/2006 02:42 PM
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Danish soldiers in Iraq acquited of abuse
Danish officers cleared of Iraqi prisoner abuse 30 minutes ago

COPENHAGEN (AFP) - A female Danish intelligence officer and four male military police sergeants were cleared of abusing Iraqi prisoners in 2004 by Copenhagen's High Court, according to judicial sources.


The case marked the first time in Denmark that soldiers were accused of violating the Geneva convention on the protection of civilians in times of war.

The court cited lack of evidence brought by the military prosecutor for the acquittals.

Reserve captain Annemette Hommel and four other officers were found guilty of abusing Iraqi prisoners by the Copenhagen district court in January.

The district court did not sentence the five due to "mitigating circumstances," on the basis that Hommel had sought guidance from her superior officers, but in vain.

The five, who had all pleaded not guilty, risked sentences of up to one year in prison.

Charges were brought against the five officers after an interpreter at Camp Eden, near Basra in southern Iraq, reported that prisoners had been abused there on three occasions in March, April and June 2004.

Hommel, 37, was charged with dereliction of duty for forcing prisoners to kneel during lengthy interrogations and refusing to give them food and water or let them go to the toilet on three occasions in 2004.

The officer was also charged with using abusive language towards prisoners on two occasions and other insults of a sexual nature, as well as telling a prisoner that he was "maybe" going to be killed.

Hommel is the only one of the five whose name has been revealed to the media.

She said after the verdict that she was "wonderfully relieved to be acquitted."

Although not as serious as some of the torture claims against US and British soldiers, the case has created a scandal in Denmark, where a heated debate still rages over the country's participation in the Iraq war.

Frank Aaen from left wing opposition party Unity List attacked the verdict, saying he suspects the government "deliberately changed the military penal code so that only very serious mistreatment of prisoners is punished, and not cases of a moderate character."

Aaen called for an urgent meeting between Defence Minister Soeren Gade and the parliamentary defence commission to explain the new code, "in which the extreme left's demands for a ban on torture are not included" and which does not respect the Geneva Conventions.

Denmark has 530 soldiers in Iraq, including some 500 in Basra under British command.