[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Soldier cleared of Iraqi's murder
Trooper Williams
Trooper Williams said he was acting to protect himself and a colleague
A British soldier accused of murdering an Iraqi civilian has been cleared after prosecutors offered no evidence.

Trooper Kevin Williams, 22, of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, was the first British Armed Forces member to be charged with murder in post-war Iraq.

His barrister said his honour was "intact" and his "head held high".

Trooper Williams, from Burnley, Lancashire, was accused of killing lawyer and father-of-nine Hassan Abbad Said near Basra on 3 August 2003.

Trooper Williams had maintained he was protecting himself and a colleague, believing their lives were at risk.

Earlier hearings were told he was on patrol with other soldiers when they discovered six Iraqis moving a cart containing heavy machine gun ammunition.

He has consistently said that in a moment of crisis he believed that Cpl Blair's life, and that of his own, were at risk
Richard Horwell

Three of the men were detained while a fourth - Mr Said - ran off. Trooper Williams and Corporal Jeffrey Blair chased him into a private courtyard.

Mr Said, who was unarmed, was said to have refused to be handcuffed and as the soldiers tried to restrain him he was shot by the trooper, who believed he was trying to get hold of Corp Blair's side-arm.

"There was no doubt in his mind that, when he fired that gun, Mr Said was about to go for his colleague's side-arm and cause serious injury or death to his colleague or himself," Trooper Williams' barrister, David Nathan QC, told the court.

"Decisions to prosecute young men and women in circumstances such as this is bound to undermine confidence and morale and the effectiveness of our troops when they are facing terrible and difficult situations," he added.

At a hearing earlier this year, judge Mrs Justice Hallett said everyone had acted in good faith in bringing the murder charge.

New evidence

But a statement issued through the soldier's solicitor on Thursday said given the "extraordinarily dangerous situation" facing soldiers in Iraq, the decision to prosecute the soldier was "astonishing".

The soldier was arrested and charged with murder on 7 September last year, following an investigation by Scotland Yard detectives, sparked by a request from the attorney general.

The case had previously been dismissed by Trooper Williams' commanding officer, which meant he could not be tried by court martial.

Explaining the High Court decision prosecutor Richard Horwell said it was the Crown Prosecution Service's (CPS) duty to constantly review every decision to charge.

"The original decision by the CPS to prosecute Trooper Williams was taken after the most careful consideration but, having been taken, it has been subject to that process of review, particularly as new evidence has emerged," he said.

He said earlier "factual disputes" between Trooper Williams and his colleague Cpl Jeffrey Blair were no longer viewed as important.

"The appropriate test in law has always been Trooper Williams' actual perception of danger and he has consistently said that in a moment of crisis he believed that Cpl Blair's life, and that of his own, were at risk.

"It is now accepted that there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction," he told the court.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Trooper Kevin Williams arrives at court




PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific