THE families of soldiers jailed and thrown out of the Army following the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, have called for a public inquiry.

They believe it could lead to the officers in charge at Camp Bread Basket, in southern Iraq, at the time of the incidents, in May 2003, being brought to account.

Lianne Cave, the fiancee of Lance Corporal Mark Cooley, 25, of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who was jailed for two years for ill-treating Iraqi prisoners, believes he and his colleagues have become the victims of a cover-up and made scapegoats for the failings of senior officers.

L Cpl Cooley, of Throckley, Newcastle, was shown grinning as he drove a forklift truck with a bound Iraqi prisoner suspended from the metal prongs.

A second Tyneside soldier, Corporal Daniel Kenyon, 34, also of Newcastle, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment at the court martial in Osnabruck, Germany on Friday.

Ms Cave, 21, of Ponteland, Northumberland, condemned the Army for expecting soldiers to perform their duties, to face being killed in action and then punish them for carrying out orders.

She said: "The Army expects these men to lay down their lives for their country, then hangs them out to dry to protect the reputations of officers who, quite frankly, should also have been on trial.

"But then, it's always the foot soldier who carries the can for the ineptitude of the senior ranks.

"Mark and his colleagues have had to take all the blame and have been made out to be the bad guys.

"Mark has told me they have been strung up by the Army and it makes my blood boil."

Ms Cave added: "It was a stupid thing for him to do, but the Iraqis have done far worse to our boys."

Cooley is expected to begin appeal procedures against the sentence today.

Meanwhile, Ms Cave's sentiments were echoed by the parents of Private Gary Bartlam, 20, from Warwickshire, who received an 18-month sentence for abusing Iraqi detainees. His father, Paul Bartlam, said questions should be asked of the men's officers