Soldiers from Basra mission charged after leaving guard post unattended


Two members of the Czech Army serving in the southern Iraqi town of Basra face criminal prosecution for dereliction of duty, Czech Television reported on Monday. The two were both on guard duty when the alleged offences took place, and now face prison sentences and expulsion from the army.

The Czech Army contingent in Basra has one task - guarding the main gate to the base used by international coalition forces at Basra Airport. Two members of that force now face criminal charges after incidents that occurred between May and August this summer.

One of the soldiers is accused of allowing a vehicle into the base unchecked. The second is accused of leaving his post to go for a ride on a motorbike with local Iraqis. The Czech Defence Ministry has described the offences as unforgivable, saying allowing a vehicle into a military base without checking it had endangered the lives of hundreds of soldiers. The officers had no place serving in either a foreign mission or at home, a Defence Ministry spokesman said.

The incidents were reported to Military Police. They cannot file criminal charges themselves so passed on details to the soldiers' commanders, who contacted the Czech police. 'Neglecting one's responsibilities whilst on guard duty' is a criminal offence for members of the Czech Armed forces, and the two - who have not been named - face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

The case is now being investigated by the police in Pardubice. The Defence Ministry also wants the two men expelled from the Army.