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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Iraqi cabbie 'lied over beating'
Basra generic
The defence disputes the taxi's direction when it was stopped

An Iraqi taxi driver lied about events surrounding an alleged beating by UK troops in which one of his passengers died, an Essex court martial has heard.

Defence lawyers accused Athar Finjan Saddam of smuggling and of driving away from a checkpoint when his car was stopped in southern Iraq in May 2003.

Mr Saddam told the Colchester military court: "I have sworn on the Koran. Why would I lie? How could I lie?"

Seven Parachute Regiment soldiers deny beating to death Nadhem Abdullah, 18.

Checkpoints

Cpl Scott Evans, 32, and privates Billy Nerney, 24, Samuel May, 25, Morne Vosloo, 26, Daniel Harding, 25, Roberto Di-Gregorio, 24, and Scott Jackson, 26, deny murder and violent disorder.

I didn't even have a knife on me
Athar Finjan Saddam

The soldiers allegedly beat Mr Abdullah so hard that he died on the way to hospital.

William Clegg, QC, representing Pte May, said the taxi driver had seen a military checkpoint and turned his car around and driven away.

Mr Clegg then said Mr Saddam's taxi was pursued by military vehicles, and accused him of smuggling and having an AK47 rifle in his car.

But Mr Saddam denied changing his direction, saying: "Sometimes you don't see checkpoints all the time... I have never done any smuggling."

He said he had no guns in his car, adding: "I didn't even have a knife on me."

Mr Saddam had previously told the court how he had been struck with rifle butts and helmets by the soldiers.

The alleged attack is said to have taken place near Basra three weeks after formal hostilities ended in Iraq.

The court martial continues.




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