“Dropping charges against the soldier will be seen as vindication by those in the military who claim the mounting number of prosecutions over Iraq is politically motivated”Charges have been dropped against the first British soldier to be accused of murdering an Iraqi civilian. Trooper Kevin Williams had been charged with killing Hassan Abbad Sayed, a lawyer and father of nine children, in August 2003.
The decision to drop the charges came, it was reported, after the Director of Public Prosecutions had reviewed the evidence and decided that there was no case to answer.
The 22-year-old soldier was charged after his commanding office and army lawyers had decided not prosecute him at a court martial - the first time that the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC, has overruled the military over a prosecution. Mr Sayed's death was reinvestigated by Scotland Yard detectives and Trooper Williams was charged with murder on 7 September last year. Lord Goldsmith said, in a written parliamentary statement, that the case involved "an alleged unlawful killing by shooting of an Iraqi civilian during the course of an arrest".
Trooper Williams , of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, from Nelson, Lancashire, is expected to attend a hearing at the Old Bailey tomorrow where the case is due to be formally dropped. He is said to have shot Mr Sayed while manning a checkpoint near Basra.
Mr Sayed is said to have been carrying a pistol. But, according to his family, he had a licence to carry firearms, issued by British authorities, to protect himself against criminals at a time of widespread lawlessness.
Julie Williams, Trooper Williams's mother, said yesterday: "I found out about the charge from a phone call. I am pleased about it - that's an understatement. It is a big relief and I haven't slept all night.
"I don't know when I'll see Kevin because he is on exercise and I am not sure where."
General Sir Antony Walker, the former Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, who served as commanding officer of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, said "[Trooper Williams] was and is innocent. He acted in a professional manner to protect his colleagues in a most dangerous situation."
The 2nd Royal Tank Regiment is stationed at Lumsden Barracks in Fallingbostel, Germany. Trooper Williams is still attached to the unit but has been based at Catterick in Yorkshire where he reports daily to the military police. He will be "reintegrated" into the regiment after it is formally declared that he has no case to answer.
Dropping charges against the soldier will be seen as vindication by those in the military who claim the mounting number of prosecutions over Iraq is politically motivated.
It was reported yesterday that despite the criminal charges being dropped, the Williams case will be part of a civil action being brought by Phil Shiner of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers who are acting for up to 40 Iraqi civilians. But the firm later stated there had been a confusion over the name of the victim and they were not, in fact, representing Mr Sayed's family.
By Kim Sengupta 06 April 2005