Iraqi judge seeks arrest of British soldiers

An Iraqi judge has issued arrest warrants for two British soldiers, arrested by Iraqi security forces but freed after British tanks smashed their way into the prison in Basra where the men were being held.

Judge Raghib Hassan issued the warrants on Thursday, accusing the men of killing an Iraqi policeman and wounding another, carrying unlicensed weapons and holding false identification, Kassim al-Sabti, the head of the lawyers’ syndicate in Basra said.

However, British Defence Secretary John Reid said his Ministry had not received any arrest warrants for the two soldiers and added that the warrants would have no legal basis anyway.

“Iraqi law is very clear. British personnel are immune from Iraqi legal process. They remain subject to British law,” he said in a statement.

British forces mounted a bid to free the two soldiers on Monday, but were initially repelled as a crowd of angry Iraqis petrol-bombed an armoured vehicle. But British forces later to break down the walls of the jail with armoured vehicles.
Basra authorities said British troops killed two Iraqi police during the raid.

Monday’s flare-up has harmed the relationship British forces were able to build with local Iraqis in and around Basra, a relatively stable city compared with other parts of Iraq.

Basra’s governing council has suspended all cooperation with the British until they apologise, guarantee that similar actions do not recur and provide compensation for damage inflicted.

Meanwhile Iraqi police said U.S. troops killed a family of four in Kerbala, south of Baghdad, on Saturday, as occupation forces remained on edge across the country.

Police said the family’s passenger car apparently got too close to a U.S. convoy, which opened fire, killing a father and mother and their 13-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter.