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Refusenik Muslim in test MoD challenge

PUBLISHED: 10:28 26 May 2003 | UPDATED: 13:54 03 March 2010

A MUSLIM RAF reservist, who reportedly refused to fight other Muslims in Iraq, is to challenge the government in a landmark case after being charged for desertion. The man, who has not been named by the Ministry of Defence, is believed to have been based in Suffolk at RAF Honington.

A MUSLIM RAF reservist, who reportedly refused to fight other Muslims in Iraq, is to challenge the government in landmark case after being charged for desertion.

The man, who has not been named by the Ministry of Defence, is believed to have been based at RAF Honington in Suffolk.

He is one of a trio of unnamed East Anglia-based servicemen who refused to fight in the war in Iraq – but is the only one to refuse on religious grounds.

The two others – an aircraft technician and a private with 16 Air Assault Brigade – were sent home from the Gulf after refusing to fight on moral grounds. They have yet to be disciplined.

The Muslim man is understood to have been arrested and charged with going absent without leave from his base in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in February.

And it is believed he is appealing against charges of desertion – or being absent without leave - on the grounds that his faith forbade him from fighting other Muslims.

His case would be the first time the MoD was faced with a refusal to fight on these particular religious grounds.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) last night said she was unable to comment on the case ahead of an appeal court hearing expected to take place in June or July in London.

She said: "I cannot comment on the individual case as it is being investigated at the moment. All I can do is confirm that there is a reservist who is being charged with desertion – or going absent without leave.

"We can't comment further until the case has been heard by an appeal tribunal."

The spokeswoman said reservists in the armed forces are called on to either join an operation such as the invasion of Iraq or "back fill" duties at home for staff drafted into various roles away from their usual bases.

She said some reservists were attached to specific bases but could not confirm whether the Muslim reservist charged had been based at RAF Honington. She said she was not in a position to name the man or reveal where he was from.

Earlier this month, the military community at RAF Honington was plunged into mourning after one of its servicemen died of injuries he suffered in an accident while serving in Iraq.

The MoD said Gunner Duncan Pritchard, who was based with the RAF Regiment at Honington, died in a UK hospital following the traffic accident.

Flight Lieutenant Tom Dobbing, spokesman for the Suffolk station, described the mood at the base – which had only days earlier witnessed joyous scenes as servicemen returned home to their families – as one of deep sadness.

He said: "It's a sad loss to the squadron, especially when we have just come back. It's not a happy conclusion to what was a very successful Middle East campaign for us."

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