Iraqi court frees accused in killing of UK soldiers

An Iraqi court on Sunday threw out a case against two men accused of being part of a mob that killed six British military policemen in 2003 due to insufficient evidence.

Judge Baligh Hamdi of the central criminal court said charges had been dropped against Hamza Hateer, 33, and Mussa Ismael al-Fartusi 39.

“The court did not see sufficient proof to condemn you and has decided to release you,” the judge told the pair after hearing eight witnesses on Sunday, the first hearing in the case.

Prosecutor Mohammed Samer too said he was dropping charges, which had been based on the testimony of “secret informers” not present in Sunday’s session.

The six military policemen were killed when a mob of about 400 people attacked a police station in Majar Al-Kabir, southern Iraq, on June 24, 2003.

Four Iraqis were also killed and 17 injured in the incident, according to village chief Abu Maryam.

Dima Naaman, spokeswoman for the British Embassy in Baghdad, told AFP that the embassy was aware of the pair’s release but declined further comment.

Defence lawyer Hussein Ali said that Fartusi would be freed but Hateer still faced a charge of stealing a British army rifle.

Hateer, a 33-year-old farmer and father of three, was arrested in February 2008. Fartusi, 39, who sells butane gas cylinders for a living and has three wives and 10 children, was picked up in November 2009.

Both were arrested by US forces.