UK

Red Cap families 'excluded' from Iraq trial

From top left: Sergeant Simon Alexander Hamilton-Jewell; Corporal Russell Aston; Corporal Paul Graham Long; Corporal Simon Miller; Lance-Corporal Benjamin Hyde; Lance-Corporal Thomas Keys.
Image caption The six men were all based at Goojerat Barracks in Colchester, Essex

The parents of six Royal Military Police soldiers killed in Iraq say they are being "excluded" from the trial of the men accused of their murder.

The Red Caps were killed by a mob in the town of Majar al-Kabir in the south of the country in 2003.

Their relatives say they are not allowed access to the court, or any form of live video of the proceedings, only a daily email summary of events.

The Ministry of Defence said it was for the Iraqi judge to rule on the matter.

The trial is due to begin in Iraq on 29 September.

Mike Aston, whose son Russell was one of those killed, said the parents were told two years ago they would be taken to see part of the trial process by the then-defence secretary John Hutton.

That offer was withdrawn by his successor Bob Ainsworth on safety grounds.

Mr Aston said the planned daily e-mail was not enough.

He told the BBC: "I'm a reasonable person. I would be happy with a video link. Especially as the government has said that any trip out there would be foolhardy.

"But I don't trust the authorities - the government and the Army. It's been like pulling teeth for seven years. They have wanted us to just go away," he said.

"We need proof that the trial has actually taken place. We don't know what happened in that room. We just want to see justice done and find out how our sons behaved and what happened to them."

MoD sources told the BBC that the ministry had investigated the possibility of some kind of streaming or video link from the court, however the decision to put in place any such video link was entirely up to the Iraqi judge. British authorities had no jurisdiction in this decision.

The Red Caps who died were: Sgt Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41, from Surrey; Cpl Russell Aston, 30 from Derbyshire; Cpl Paul Long, 24, from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, L/Cpl Tom Keys, 20, from North Wales; Cpl Simon Miller, 21, from Washington, Tyne and Wear and L/Cpl Ben Hyde, 23, from North Yorkshire.

They had been on a routine operation to train local police, and according to some reports had been playing football with the Iraqi police officers when a crowd of between 400 and 500 people attacked.

The six men were chased into a police station, where they were shot.

After local elders put out a request for witnesses, 16 people were initially arrested and charged.

In 2006, an inquest heard that the men had been given radios that did not work and not enough ammunition, but the coroner ruled that the deaths could not have been avoided.

Sources at the MoD said: "We did investigate the possibility of some kind of streaming or video link from the court, however the decision to put in place any such video link is entirely up to the Iraqi judge. We have no jurisdiction in this."

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