Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

Britons' alleged killers rebuffed

Sapper Luke Allsopp and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth
Sapper Luke Allsopp and Staff Sgt Simon Cullingworth were killed in 2003

Two Iraqis accused of killing British soldiers have failed in a bid to stop their handover to Iraq's authorities.

The House of Lords refused permission to challenge a Court of Appeal ruling that the UK must hand the men back to face a possible death penalty.

The European Court of Human Rights had tried to delay the transfer of Faisal Al-Saadoon,56, and Khalaf Mufdhi, 58.

Both are accused of murdering Staff Sgt Simon Cullingworth and Sapper Luke Allsopp in Iraq in March 2003.

Rights 'infringed'

In October 2006 a coroner ruled that the two Britons were unlawfully killed by Iraqi military intelligence during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The two soldiers were ambushed by militia, taken to an Iraqi military compound and shot.

Earlier the Court of Appeal judges dismissed claims that Mr Al-Saadoon and Mr Mufdhi's human rights would be infringed by being handed over to the Iraqi authorities to stand trial.

The pair's defence lawyers had argued that Britain's UN mandate for military presence in Iraq - which also gave it the ability to detain Iraqi nationals - had run out on 31 December.

But lawyers for defence secretary John Hutton said this meant the case was now "academic" - because the suspects, both Iraqi residents accused of war crimes committed in their own country, had already been handed over as required on the expiration of the mandate.

Refusing leave to appeal, Lord Phillips, sitting with Lord Rodger and Lord Brown, said the case did not raise a point of law of general public importance such as to warrant a further appeal.

We should all welcome the fact that the Iraqi courts will now be able to establish the facts and for the course of justice to be followed
Bob Ainsworth
Armed forces minister

The Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Justice had said they were been given assurances at the "highest level" that both men will receive a fair trial and treatment, whatever the outcome of the case.

Reacting to the verdict, Armed Forces Minster Bob Ainsworth said that it was right for the men to be returned to the Iraqis to face trial.

"Public interest lawyers' petition for leave to appeal a unanimous Court of Appeal judgement was turned down today. This shows that there is no public value in considering this matter any further," he said.

"The Iraqi judicial system is where jurisdiction resides for this case, not in the UK. There is no way in which we could continue to lawfully detain these men."

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