- The Washington Times - Friday, May 14, 2004

LONDON — The editor of one of Britain’s most virulently antiwar newspapers was fired yesterday for publishing fake photographs of British troops abusing prisoners in Iraq.

Piers Morgan, the editor of the Daily Mirror, maintained until the end that the pictures have not been proved to be fake, but the newspaper’s management board apologized for “damage done to the army.”

The Mirror had been the “victim of a calculated and malicious hoax,” the board said.

According to inside sources, Mr. Morgan was fired when he refused to publish an apology for publishing the photographs. U.S. investors with a substantial stake in the parent company, Trinity Mirror, also are said to have pressured the board.

The tabloid newspaper said soldiers from the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, famous for its battles against George Washington’s troops in the American War of Independence and its role in the D-Day invasion, were involved in the prisoner abuse.

Yesterday, regiment officials expressed outrage and claimed that the pictures had put British lives in danger.

“It is time that the ego of an editor is measured against the life of a soldier,” said Col. David Black at regimental headquarters.

However, soldiers from the regiment, who have been in Iraq since April 2003, also face investigations into abuse of prisoners, including at least one death in custody, and a number of shootings during patrols in and around the southern city of Basra.

Yesterday, an Iraqi man told the Arab television station Al Arabiya that British troops tortured and killed his son while in detention — then apologized and offered him $3,000 in compensation. British authorities have acknowledged the payment.

Because the pictures published by the Mirror had been brought by two soldiers from the regiment, and as a third had volunteered potentially damaging information, the Mirror’s editor had hoped to tough out the row.

“We published the truth and revealed a can of worms,” an apparently unrepentant Mr. Morgan told reporters yesterday morning.

Mr. Morgan became the youngest editor of a major British national newspaper when he was named editor of the mass-circulation News of the World at age 29.

British military investigators as well as Prime Minister Tony Blair said the graphic pictures suggesting prisoner abuse appeared to have been faked since the truck in one of the photographs, for instance, had never left British shores.

Yesterday, journalists were provided more proof to support the claim that they were fake: the wrong kind of rifle, a missing communications device, a far-too-clean T-shirt conveniently showing an Iraqi flag, a far-too-clean boot, and a far-too-clean truck.

Also, the soldier’s arm in a photo was too pale to have been exposed to the blistering Iraqi sun.

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