Three servicemen who face being prosecuted for manslaughter over the death of an Iraqi teenager were cleared a decade ago, after it emerged that key witnesses had lied about the claims and were paid expenses in exchange for their testimony.The Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that three soldiers, including a decorated major, have been told that they could be charged in relation to the death of a 19-year-old who drowned in 2003, after the invasion of Iraq.The three men, two of whom are still serving soldiers, face becoming the first servicemen to be prosecuted as a result of criminal investigations carried out by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat), which was set up in 2010 to examine allegations of abuse by troops. However, it has now emerged that the three were cleared by a military courtroom in a behind-closed-doors hearing a decade ago, after their defence teams proved that two key witnesses had lied and had been promised cash for their testimony by the Royal Military Police.The investigation followed the death, in May 2003, of Said Shabram, 19, who drowned in the Shatt al-Arab waterway, near the southern Iraqi city of Basra.A man who was with Mr Shabram claimed that the pair were forced into the water at gunpoint, by British soldiers, after being accused of looting electrical cable containing copper.The troops, however, say that the teenager fled into the waterway after being surrounded by locals who warned that the British would execute them, in a grisly echo of the practice employed by henchmen of Saddam Hussein. A scimitar of the Queens Dragoon Guards watches as a striker vehicle also of the Queens Dragoon Guards fires a sidewinder missile at an Iraqi bunker March 30, 2003 near Basra in southern Iraq. Credit:Paul Grover Soldiers from the The Royal Welch Fusiliers mount helicopter borne Eagle VCP’s (Vehicle Check Points), July 2, 2004 around the southern Iraqi town of BasraCredit:Getty Images The servicemen told senior officers that they had searched the murky waters for nearly an hour, attempting to rescue the young Iraqi.Finally admitting defeat, the major – then a second lieutenant – filed a report stating that he and his men had done all they could to try to rescue the man, but that he had drowned.Three years later, a secret hearing in Basra, known as a formal preliminary examination, cleared the men, after their legal teams exposed a catalogue of errors in the RMP investigation. British troops trying to keep the peace in Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 invasionCredit:Getty Images Emails also showed that RMP special investigators took “strategic decisions” not to interview independent witnesses who backed up the soldiers’ description of what happened, and that a brigade commander thought the investigation “farcical”.Defence documents were also “lost” by Army prosecutors, who had previously ordered the investigation to be “temporarily discontinued” because of the unreliability of the Iraqi witnesses.Hilary Meredith, the lawyer acting for the major, who has two bravery medals and was wounded in Afghanistan, said this weekend that her client, had “lost his career and his sanity” over the claims. She added: “It is a disgrace. The death was investigated by the military, the case against the major dropped in 2006 and he was cleared.”A Ministry of Defence spokesman refused to comment on the claims, but said: “Our armed forces are rightly held to the highest standards and, whilst rare, where there are credible claims of criminal behaviour, we should investigate them. Stamping out the many spurious claims will mean Ihat is better able to focus on the few credible ones.” After just two days of the hearing, which had been scheduled to last 10, the defence barristers were able to show that two witnesses were not telling the truth, and had been promised payment for their testimony by the RMP, to cover their expenses.A military dossier leaked to the Telegraph in 2006, also showed that there was doubt that the body presented to the pathologist for post-mortem examination was in fact the man who had allegedly been killed.It was also claimed that an Iraqi witness had come forward to give a statement backing the soldiers’ version of events, but had been murdered by friends of the drowned man after being refused protection by RMPs. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.