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Last Updated: Monday, 5 September 2005, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Soldiers' assault 'killed Iraqi'
Soldier on patrol in southern Iraq
Three of the soldiers are no longer serving in the Army
An 18-year-old Iraqi man was killed during an "unjustified" and "gratuitous" assault involving seven British soldiers, a court has heard.

The soldiers - who are charged with murder and violent disorder - attacked villagers with rifle butts, helmets, feet and fists, prosecutors alleged.

The court martial, at a military court in Colchester, Essex, follows the death in Iraq of Nadhem Abdullah in May 2003.

The 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment soldiers all deny the charges.

Pregnant women

The men, who are serving and former members of the regiment, are accused of killing Mr Abdullah following a roadside incident in Uzayra, southern Iraq.

The attack took place three weeks after the "formal cessation" of the war, Martin Heslop QC told the court.

It was, I am afraid to say, nothing more than gratuitous violence meted out on a number of innocent and unarmed Iraqi civilians
Martin Heslop

The soldiers entered the southern Iraqi village during a patrol and "brutally assaulted a number of unarmed Iraqi civilians, causing serious injuries from which one died", Mr Heslop said.

He added: "During the course of the incident, two women who tried to intervene were assaulted, one being pregnant at the time and the other having given birth two weeks before."

The soldiers had not been under attack, or defending themselves, Mr Heslop said.

"It was, I am afraid to say, nothing more than gratuitous violence meted out on a number of innocent and unarmed Iraqi civilians. These assaults were unjustified and wholly unprovoked."

Security reasons

The accused include Corporal Scott Evans, 32, Private Billy Nerney, 24, Private Samuel May, 25, and Private Morne Vosloo, 26.

The other three facing charges - Daniel Harding, 25, Roberto Di-Gregorio, 24, and Scott Jackson, 26 - were all privates but are no longer in the Army.

The Ministry of Defence said it could not give the addresses of the defendants for security reasons.

Lawyers estimate the trial will last for more than two months.

The court martial was adjourned until Monday, 12 September.



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