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U.K. soldier cleared of remaining abuse charge

/ Source: The Associated Press

Prosecutors on Thursday dropped the remaining charge against one of three British soldiers standing trial on allegations of abusing Iraqi captives, saying they couldn’t prove he was the one who forced two detainees to strip and simulate sex acts.

Lance Cpl. Darren Larkin, 30, has already pleaded guilty to one count of battery after prosecutors alleged he was the man shown in a photo standing with both feet on a tied-up Iraqi lying on the ground.

Prosecutors dropped a second charge after a witness said he was unsure about his identification of Larkin as the soldier who forced the Iraqis to strip.

“The crown has concluded there is no longer realistic proof on that charge,” prosecutor Lt. Col. Nick Clapham told the court.

Charges of aiding and abetting Larkin were also dropped against Cpl. Daniel Kenyon, 33, who still has five charges remaining against him. He has denied the charges.

Larkin, Kenyon and Lance Cpl. Mark Cooley, all from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, are on trial at a British base in Germany on charges they abused Iraqis detained on suspicion of looting a humanitarian aid warehouse outside Basra in May 2003.

Cooley, 25, is charged with hoisting a detainee on a forklift and driving it. He also is charged with simulating a kick and a punch against the other detainee, seen in two separate photos. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The trial revolves around photos taken by a soldier who was arrested in England after bringing the film to be developed. The pictures provoked widespread dismay in Britain after they were published in newspapers, leading to uncomfortable comparisons with the scandal over abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

A fourth soldier, Fusilier Gary Bartlam, who took the photos that prompted the investigation, has been sentenced in the case. The judge, Michael Hunter, has imposed restrictions on Bartlam’s trial that bar reporting of details.