Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 16:44 UK

Iraq detainee death 'was revenge'

Daoud Mousa: "I came to London to reveal the truth and to bring justice"

British soldiers might have been out for "revenge" when they detained an Iraqi civilian who died in their custody, a public inquiry has heard.

Baha Mousa's father said he had reported members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment after seeing them break into a safe.

Basra police officer Daoud Mousa told the London hearing he believed this was why his son had been killed in 2003.

The inquiry is looking into the death, detainees' treatment and army methods.

Baha Mousa and nine other civilians were arrested at the Haitham hotel in Basra on 14 September 2003.

Soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, which has since been amalgamated, found weapons on the premises.

AT THE SCENE
Caroline McClatchey, BBC News

It was appropriate that the first witness should be Daoud Mousa, the father of Baha Mousa, whose death is at the centre of the inquiry.

Dressed in a grey suit and green tie, he looked very much like a police officer in the witness box.

He was a major in the Basra police force at one time but had to retire because he was not part of Saddam's clique.

Speaking through a translator, he spoke about his and Baha's hopes for a better future.

He remained composed until he was asked about the effect of Baha's death on the family. He simply broke down, covered his eyes with a handkerchief and couldn't answer the question.

Hotel staff insisted the weapons were kept for security, but they were taken to a detention centre at the Battle Group Main camp, under suspicion of being insurgents.

Two days later, father-of-two Mr Mousa, 26, was dead. A post-mortem examination showed he suffered asphyxiation and had at least 93 injuries to his body, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

Daoud Mousa told the inquiry his son had "been happy when the British troops came in".

He said Saddam Hussein had forced him out of his job as a police major in 1991 and his son "hated" the former Iraqi leader for that. Daoud Mousa has since rejoined the force.

He spoke to the soldiers' commanding officer when he saw three or four members of the regiment "pocketing money" after he went to the hotel to pick up his son.

He said: "I thought that it was a violation of English dignity and honour, and the honour of English troops."

Recalling the time when he saw Baha Mousa had been detained by soldiers, he said: "I think they knew the one I was pointing to was my son, therefore they wanted revenge against me."

In a statement read out at the inquiry, he said: "I believe that my son may have been treated worse than other people because I had made a complaint... that money was being stolen from the hotel safe."

A six-month court martial saw seven soldiers facing war crimes charges relating to Mr Mousa's death.

In April 2007, all but Cpl Donald Payne - who admitted inhumanely treating civilians - were cleared on all counts. He was dismissed from the Army and sentenced to one year in a civilian jail.

Once two soldiers punched me at the same time as if they were acting in a movie
Witness D3

At the inquiry, Daoud Mousa refused to accept an apology from Cpl Payne's barrister, Michael Topolski QC.

The barrister said: "He, for whom I speak, regrets what he did and he apologises to you and to your family for the death of your son. I hope you will accept that from me."

In response, Daoud Mousa said: "I will not accept an apology of a criminal."

'Unbelievably cruel'

The inquiry has heard interrogation methods used by British troops in Iraq were banned by the UK government in 1972. These included hooding, sleep deprivation and forcing suspects to stand in painful "stress positions".

TIMELINE OF KEY EVENTS
14 Sep 2003 Baha Mousa and nine other Iraqis arrested at Haitham Hotel in Basra by members of the 1st Battalion The Queen's Lancashire Regiment
16 Sep 2003 Mr Mousa dies in British army custody in Iraq with multiple injuries
30 April 2007 Cpl Donald Payne jailed for a year and dismissed from the Army for inhumanely treating civilian detainees
27 March 2008 MoD admits breaching the human rights of Mr Mousa and others
14 May 2008 Defence Secretary Des Browne announces public inquiry to be held into Mr Mousa's death
10 July 2008 MoD agrees to pay £2.83m compensation to mistreated detainees
13 July 2009 Public inquiry begins in London

In his statement to the inquiry, Daoud Mousa said: "There are various features of the way my son was treated which I find particularly appalling, and which I want to make sure are given proper public recognition...

"I sense that it might be convenient to blame everything on a few rogue soldiers. I would like to see whether that is really the case, or whether some of the practices that went on with my son also went on elsewhere."

After finishing his evidence, Mr Mousa made a statement in the street outside the building where the inquiry is being held.

"I came to London to reveal the truth and to bring justice and to find out who authorised the killing of my son," he said.

A hotel worker detained with Baha Mousa told the inquiry the treatment by British soldiers was "unbelievably cruel".

Hooded and handcuffed, they were forced to stand and not allowed to sleep for three days, he said.

Referred to only as D3, he said the soldiers punched detainees in the chest and kneed them in the stomach, and one spat in his face.

"Once two soldiers punched me at the same time as if they were acting in a movie. They were laughing," he said.

Along with Baha Mousa, he was among a group who had posed for photographs with guns stored at the hotel. But D3 said the weapons did not belong to insurgents and the purpose of the pictures was "just fun".



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