[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Goldsmith defends courts martial
Guard outside court martial
The evidence was credible, the attorney general said
The attorney general has denied claims three soldiers cleared of killing an Iraqi youth should never have stood trial because of "flimsy evidence".

Lord Goldsmith said he was "astonished" at the accusation and was satisfied there had been "sufficient and credible evidence of wrongdoing".

That view was shared by the independent Army Prosecuting Authority and "very experienced prosecutors", he added.

He spoke out after Tory MP Derek Conway questioned evidence in the case.

On Tuesday, three soldiers were found not guilty of the manslaughter of 15-year-old Ahmed Jabber Kareem, a non-swimmer who drowned in a Basra canal in May 2003.

There will be... a degree of shame that men with such fine service should have been placed in such a position on such flimsy evidence
Derek Conway

They had been accused of forcing four suspected looters at gunpoint into a canal to "teach them a lesson".

The court heard that the dead teenager struggled in the canal before disappearing underwater.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr Conway said there would be "great delight" over Tuesday's acquittal.

"There will also be bewilderment and indeed a degree of shame that men with such fine service should have been placed in such a position on such flimsy evidence," he said.

"Can you imagine what it must be like to be a young soldier in Basra having to look ahead for bombers and snipers and behind for the attorney general."

'Credible evidence'

Lord Goldsmith said on Wednesday morning that he had spoken to the prosecution team about what evidence had been presented.

"I'm quite satisfied it was quite right to bring the case because there was sufficient and credible evidence of wrongdoing," he said.

I'm astonished by the remarks I've heard saying there wasn't sufficient evidence
Lord Goldsmith

That had been the decision of the army prosecuting authority as well as "two of the most experienced QCs in the country", he added.

"I'm astonished by the remarks I've heard saying there wasn't sufficient evidence.

"It was the view of the judge himself because he threw out a suggestion that there was insufficient evidence and said no this was a case that had to be left to the jury."

The military trial system has also been criticised by defence lawyers who acted for seven paratroopers accused of beating an Iraqi teenager to death.

The courts martial last November, which cost 5m, ruled there was insufficient evidence against them.

Gilbert Blades, who was part of the defence team, said the cost of both the cases had been "absolutely enormous".

"None of them should ever have had to face a court martial as a common murderer or criminal," he told BBC News.

"There was no evidence in relation to both these cases, the pattern has emerged that the evidence was lies from thieves and looters and the evidence just did not stand up in court."

But Lord Goldsmith said that, again, in the paratroopers' court martial, the army prosecuting authority and "leading prosecution counsel" had considered there was a case to go ahead.





PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific