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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September, 2003, 21:27 GMT 22:27 UK
Officer cleared of Iraqi war crimes
Tim Collins
Lt Col Tim Collins won praise for his speech to troops
A British Army officer investigated for alleged war crimes during the conflict with Iraq has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The Ministry of Defence said Colonel Tim Collins, who won wide praise for a rousing speech to his troops on the eve of battle, was not guilty.

The allegations are understood to have involved the mistreatment of Iraqi civilians and prisoners of war.

Welcoming the MoD's verdict, Colonel Collins' solicitor Lewis Cherry said the officer wanted to put the matter behind him and get on with his Army career.

Mr Cherry made a point of adding: "His pre-war speech said 'You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest, for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation'."

Despite being cleared of war crimes, Colonel Collins is still waiting for the completion of a separate inquiry into the running of a battalion while it was under his command.

'Good name'

Colonel Rory Clayton, a former colleague of Colonel Collins, said he was glad he had been cleared.

He told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "Tim Collins is a very tough leader, he did drive a very tough regiment of soldiers and he was in a very tough theatre of operations. Robust leadership is what is required in those situations."

Announcing the findings of the first inquiry the Ministry of Defence said: "We can confirm that the investigation into the allegations against Colonel Collins have now concluded and that no criminal proceedings will be taken against him."

After being accused of misconduct in Iraq, apparently by an American officer, the 43-year-old said he was "astonished".

Lt Col Tim Collins: Commanding Officer

As the investigation was launched Colonel Collins, who was a Lieutenant Colonel with the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment but has since been promoted, said: "I am confident my good name will be restored."

The Iraqi man at the centre of the allegations, Ayoub Yousif Naser, told the Times newspaper he was struck by the colonel and that he and his son were then made to face a wall.

He is reported to have said he heard the officer give the order to fire before he saw other troops approach with bandages to treat their wounds.

If he had been found guilty of the allegations Colonel Collins could have faced disciplinary action or even expulsion from the Army.

'Public scrutiny'

Mr Cherry said the allegations against Colonel Collins' were unique.

He said: "His actions in battle have been examined by a detailed investigation.

"This must be the first time in history a battlefield commander has faced such immediate public scrutiny."

Mr Cherry added: "Iraq was, and remains, a dangerous place for the British Army. Colonel Collins brought his battle group home safely from the war."

The investigation was carried out by the special investigations branch of the Royal Military Police.

'Farcical'

In May it emerged that the second inquiry involving Colonel Collins was to be held.

"If you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.
Colonel Tim Collins

It includes the apparent suicide of 18-year-old soldier Paul Cochrane at Drumad barracks in Northern Ireland in 2001 and will look into issues of the command culture and discipline.

The dead soldier's father, Billy Cochrane, said he had no confidence in the inquiry.

He said: "It will be another internal inquiry by officers into officers. Nothing will come out of it. It is all farcical."

Speech

Colonel Collins - known as "Nails" to his troops - made headlines around the world with his speech to British soldiers hours before they entered battle in Iraq.

In his address to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, he said: "If you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory."

The speech earned him lavish praise from the Prince of Wales and was admired by US President George W Bush.

It was said that the president even had a copy of the speech tacked up on the wall of the Oval Office.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's James Robbins
"Colonel Tim Collins never doubted this outcome"



SEE ALSO:
Colonel denies war allegations
22 May 03  |  Northern Ireland
MoD inquiry 'farcical'
23 May 03  |  Northern Ireland
Profile: Colonel Tim Collins
23 May 03  |  Northern Ireland
Colonel in new investigation
23 May 03  |  Northern Ireland


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