LONDON, Nov 3 (Reuters) – Seven British soldiers were acquitted on Thursday of charges of beating an innocent Iraqi teenager to death with rifle butts.
A judge at a specially convened military court in eastern England ordered the adjudicating panel to return "not guilty" verdicts against the seven because he did not believe there was sufficient evidence against them, the Ministry of Defence said.
The defendants — four serving and three former soldiers — were accused of killing 18-year-old Nadhem Abdullah during a skirmish in a village near the southern city of Basra in 2003.
Prosecutors said the soldiers had wrongly believed he had been in a car which had evaded an army checkpoint.
All seven denied the charges.
The case had threatened to raise questions once again about the behaviour of British and U.S. soldiers, who have been under scrutiny in Iraq since last year”s Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
No British troops were implicated in the cases of abuse at the Baghdad jail but several have been court-martialled for actions in other parts of Iraq.
The British military stresses abuse is not widespread or systematic. Some 65,000 British soldiers have served in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003 and around 8,500 are still there, based in and around Basra.