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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 17:04 GMT
Accused British officer praised
Baha Mousa
Hotel receptionist Baha Mousa died in custody in 2003
A UK Army officer accused of failing to prevent abuse of Iraqi prisoners was "the best commanding officer by some way", a court martial has heard.

Col Jorge Mendonca is on trial along with six other British soldiers at a hearing in Wiltshire.

Lt Col Hugh Eaton, an ex-commander in Basra, said he "could not imagine" the officer being negligent in his duty.

Col Mendonca denies the charge, related to the abuse of prisoners in 2003.

Col Mendonca, and six other soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, are being tried over the death of Baha Mousa, 26, who was held in custody in Basra.

My experience of Col Mendonca was as the most careful and thoughtful of commanding officers
Hugh Eaton
Retired Army commander

Mr Mousa, a hotel receptionist, was among a group of detainees arrested following a counter-insurgency operation in September 2003.

The prosecution alleges that Col Mendonca, who received the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry in Iraq, negligently performed a duty by not ensuring the prisoners were properly treated.

Negligence questioned

Under cross-examination by the defence, Lt Col Eaton was asked if Col Mendonca could have been negligent.

"I could not imagine that could be the case", he said.

"My experience of Col Mendonca was as the most careful and thoughtful of the commanding officers."

He added that the colonel was the man "most likely" to query details, saying: "He was the man universally considered as being the best commanding officer by some way".

CHARGES IN FULL
Cpl Donald Payne - manslaughter, inhumane treatment of persons, perverting the course of justice
L/Cpl Wayne Crowcroft - inhumane treatment of persons
Pte Darren Fallon - inhumane treatment of persons
Sgt Kelvin Stacey - actual bodily harm, alternatively assault
Warrant Officer Mark Davies - negligently performing a duty
Maj Michael Peebles - negligently performing a duty
Col Jorge Mendonca - negligently performing a duty

In September, Cpl Donald Payne, 35, of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, became the first British soldier to admit to a war crime after pleading guilty to the inhumane treatment charge.

He denies further charges of perverting the course of justice and manslaughter.

L/Cpl Wayne Crowcroft, 22, and Pte Darren Fallon, 23 - both also of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment - deny the charge of inhumane treatment.

Sgt Kelvin Stacey, 29, of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, denies assault occasioning actual bodily harm, with an alternative count of common assault.

And Maj Michael Peebles, 35, and Warrant Officer Mark Davies, 37, both of the Intelligence Corps, deny charges of negligently performing a duty.

The case continues.




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