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Government vows to pursue justice for the six Red Caps murdered in Iraq in 2003

The families of six Red Caps killed in Iraq have received Government assurances that the fight for justice will continue despite a devastating legal blow.

Charges against two men accused of the murders were dropped yesterday in Baghdad after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence.

Relatives in the UK reacted with disappointment and hit out at the British government for perceived failings in the case.

The Ministry of Defence said it would continue to push to see those responsible brought to trial.

The six British military policemen, including Lance Corporal Thomas Keys from Bala, North Wales, were killed in 2003 when a mob of about 400 people attacked a police station in Majar al-Kabir, southern Iraq.

Relatives have fought a frustrating seven year battle for justice over the deaths.

But hopes of a conviction against Hamza Hateer and Mussa Ismael al Fartusi were dashed when it was ruled that there was insufficient evidence to continue the prosecution.

Chief Justice Baleagh Hamdi Hikmat dropped the charges after a two hour hearing inside the central criminal court in Baghdad

Having earlier adjourned proceedings to allow witnesses time to travel, no eyewitnesses were brought to yesterday’s session.

Instead the three-judge panel questioned nine people – mostly Iraqi police – none of whom said they saw the defendants in the crowd which killed the Royal Military Police officers.

The Ministry of Defence has vowed to press on with bringing those responsible to trial despite the latest disappointment.

A spokeswoman said: “Seven further arrest warrants remain outstanding and are being actively pursued by the Iraqi authorities.

“We will continue to do all we can to press for the prosecution of those responsible.”

But family members have criticised the British Government as well as the Iraqi judicial system over failings relating to the case.

Families were originally told they could travel to Iraq for court hearings but it was later deemed too dangerous.

British officials then said efforts would be made to set up a videolink beaming live images from the court back to the UK but this did not prove possible.

Instead the relatives were told they would be updated via email by the British Embassy in Baghdad and the Ministry of Defence.

The Red Caps had been training local Iraqi officers when the police station came under attack on June 24, 2003.

An inquest in March 2006 heard that some of their bodies were found riddled with bullets, while others had marks that suggested they had been dragged, tied up or beaten with rifles.

Coroner Nicholas Gardiner recorded a narrative verdict of unlawful killing, saying the six soldiers should have been better equipped but their deaths could not have been avoided.

The others victims were Sergeant Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41, from Chessington, Surrey; Corporal Paul Long, 24, of South Shields, Tyne and Wear; Corporal Russell Aston, 30, from Swadlincote, Derbyshire; Corporal Simon Miller, 21, from Washington, Tyne and Wear; Lance Corporal Benjamin Hyde, 23, from Northallerton, North Yorkshire

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