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'Commanding officer Jorge Mendonca threatened to blow Iraqi prisoner's head off'

Johnny McDevitt

mendonca1_140783a.jpg

(Fiona Hanson/PA) Colonel Jorge Mendonca MBE, was cleared at the court martial


November 16, 2009

A "trigger-happy" former commanding officer of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment pointed his gun at an Iraqi prisoner and threatened to blow the man's face off, an Army abuse inquiry heard today.

Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Mendonca, of 1st Battalion QLR, acted as if he were a member of the SAS and presided over a regimental unit in which there was a culture of abuse, according to Donald Payne, a former corporal giving evidence over the death of an Iraqi hotel receptionist at the hands of British troops in 2003.

Payne, the first member of the Armed Forces to be convicted of a war crime, also told the inquiry into Baha Mousa's death that he witnessed a former QLR Lieutenant, Craig Rodgers, place a jerry can of petrol filled with water in front of an Iraqi boy and pour the liquid over him before lighting a match.

Payne, who was dismissed from the Army and sentenced to one year in a civilian jail after pleading guilty to inhumane treatment in September 2006, said that all members of the unit were involved in abusing civilians under their control.

Payne described Lieutenant Colonel Mendonca as 'gung ho'. He told the inquiry of one occasion where the officer cocked his pistol, held it above a prisoner’s mouth and threatened to "blow his face off".

The commanding officer also personally shot out blacked-out car windows after a directive was issued banning them, Payne claimed. The former soldier said in a statement to the inquiry:

"It was my impression that the CO was somewhat trigger-happy

"He would pull his pistol out at any opportunity. He would behave as if he were a member of the SAS. Everyone knew and commented about his behaviour."

Lieutenant Colonel Mendonca, who was later promoted to colonel, was charged with negligently performing a duty over the prisoner abuse but was cleared at the court martial.

Mr Mousa, 26 died in Basra, southern Iraq, on September 15 2003 while in the custody of the regiment, having suffered 93 separate injuries.

Payne said he saw every member of the unit commanded by Lieutenant Rodgers, known by the call sign G10A, "forcefully kick and/or punch" the group of Iraqi detainees that included Mr Mousa.

Mr Rodgers, who left the Army in 2007, strongly denied allegations of prisoner abuse when he gave evidence to the inquiry last week. He said: "I did not hit, punch, kick or physically assault any of the detainees at any time."

Witnesses have told the inquiry that they previously lied to protect Payne by saying the Iraqi prisoner accidentally banged his head during a scuffle.

The inquiry today heard Payne’s version of his "struggle" with Mr Mousa prior to the Iraqi’s death. The former corporal admitted putting his knee in the Mr Mousa’s back in order to restrain him, but denied pounding his head against a wall.

Payne said: "I heard his head, but I don't know whether it was the floor or the wall... I heard it whack."

Payne said he beat the prisoners because he wrongly believed that they were linked to the deaths of three soldiers with the Royal Military Police in Iraq in June 2003.

The inquiry continues.





:: Article nr. 60126 sent on 16-nov-2009 18:43 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=60126

Link: www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6918918.ece



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