Thursday, November 03, 2005


Bias? No, Not Here...

Do you ever get the idea that some people -- and some newspapers -- really want to see their own side lose?

Have a look at this article. The disappointment is evident all the way through: UK soldiers' murder trial collapses

The trial of seven British soldiers accused of murdering an Iraqi teenager collapsed after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.

The trial has already cost taxpayers an estimated £10 million.

The soldiers, all members of the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, have been found not guilty of murder and violent disorder.

The soldiers were standing trial accused of murdering 18-year-old Nadhem Abdullah in an attack on a group of Iraqi civilians in al-Ferkah, 60 miles north of Basra, in May 2003.

Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett directed the military panel hearing the court martial in Colchester, Essex, to clear the defendants of all seven charges against them.

He said: "In relation to all the defendants, after discarding the evidence that is too inherently weak or vague for any sensible person to rely on it, prosecution evidence taken at its highest is such that a reasonable jury or court martial board properly directed could never reach the high standard of proof required to be sure of the guilt of any defendant.

"In those circumstances it is my duty to remove the case from the board now and direct that they return verdicts of not guilty to the charge of murder against all seven defendants."

During the trial Martin Heslop QC, prosecuting, told the court that Mr Abdullah was an "innocent" teenager who died after being subject to a gratuitously violent attack during which the paratroopers used their rifle buts, helmets, fists and feet.

The attack was said to have taken place three weeks after "formal hostilities" had ceased.

The cleared soldiers are Corporal Scott Evans, 32, Private Billy Nerney, 24, Samuel May, 25, Morne Vosloo, 26, Daniel Harding, 25, Roberto Di-Gregorio and Scott Jackson, 26.
From the headline to the conclusion, a sense of gloom permeates the entire piece. Not "British soldiers cleared of all charges" -- "UK soldiers' murder trial collapses", as though perhaps the soldiers had quietly murdered all corroborating witnesses, or something.

Note that the charges against the men are presented in detail -- suitable for enraging a reading audience -- but no counter-argument is presented. (The soldiers' defense must have been formidable, for the charges to have been rejected so firmly by the presiding judge.) Note also that laughable 'the attack was said to have taken place three weeks after "formal hostilities" had ceased'... as though we're all shocked and horrified to hear that hostilities continued beyond the fall of Saddam.

Once again, the courts are being used, not to bring justice to individuals, but to place the war itself on trial. While I have no objection to people protesting the war, or disagreeing with its importance, is it truly necessary to place Britain's defenders on trial as scapegoats for Mr Blair's government?

And is it truly necessary for British newspapers to cheer for the downfall of her own soldiers, and respond to their vindication with public pouting and whinging?

(For a different perspective, see this ABC article: "Charges Dropped Against British Soldiers". It's still a biased article, to my eye, but at least the bias isn't obvious. ABC also gives the rank of all seven soldiers, something the Scotsman doesn't bother to do.)


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