Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:03 UK

Mousa UK soldiers 'passed blame'

Baha Mousa and his family
A post-mortem examination showed Mr Mousa had at least 93 injuries

British soldiers involved in arresting an Iraqi man who later died in UK custody were told to blame a colleague for his death, an inquiry has heard.

The inquiry into Baha Mousa's death heard claims the order came from an-ex Queen's Lancashire lieutenant.

One soldier claimed they were told to blame former Cpl Donald Payne - since dimissed from the Army over the incident - for Mr Mousa's 2003 death.

But another soldier told the public inquiry this was not the case.

Michael Topolski, representing Cpl Payne, read part of the statement from Private Aaron Cooper.

In it he claimed Lieutenant Craig Rodgers, of the former Queen's Lancashire Regiment - which has since been merged - had "said we should all stick to the same story or words to this effect".

"He made it clear that he thought Corporal Payne should be blamed alone for the death and for the injuries to the detainees."

Mr Mousa and nine other civilians were arrested at a hotel in Basra on 14 September 2003.

The father-of-two died at about 10pm the following day, having suffered 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

L/Cpl David Fearon
[Treating prisoners humanely is] common decency. You treat others how you would like to be treated
L/Cpl David Fearon

On Tuesday an Iraqi colleague told the public inquiry he heard his friend Mr Mousa beg for mercy while they were both being detained.

The inquiry also heard evidence from L/Cpl David Fearon who was a private in the Army when he took part in the raid on the hotel.

Asked if he knew of a plan to blame Cpl Payne for Mr Mousa's death, he replied: "Never".

L/Cpl Fearon admitted stealing money from the hotel safe during the raid but said he only took it to make a collage of bank notes.

Asked by Gerard Elias, counsel to the inquiry, why he had done that, he replied: "I was making a collage of Iraqi notes, dinar notes."

He was later punished for the theft by being ordered to fill 250 sandbags. He said his actions earned him the nickname "Dinar Dave" from his colleagues.

'Grim reapers'

Last week the inquiry heard evidence from Mr Mousa's father who said he had noticed British soldiers stealing from the safe and he believed that was the reason his son was treated worse than the other men detained.

L/Cpl Fearon added that he had heard the nickname "Grim Reapers" used in reference to his unit, but said he did not know why.

He told the inquiry he had never seen his colleagues ill-treat Iraqi civilians and said he had been trained in prisoner handling.

When asked if he was aware of his personal responsibility to treat prisoners humanely, Cpl Fearon said he was.

He said: "It's common decency. You treat others how you would like to be treated."

Cpl Payne became the first member of the British armed forces to be convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty at a court martial in September 2006 to inhumanely treating civilians.

He was dismissed from the Army and sentenced to one year in a civilian jail.

Six other soldiers who faced the court martial were all cleared on all counts in March 2007.

The inquiry continues on Friday.

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