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The authors investigate the performance of the probabilistic data association (PDA) detector in a cooperative system that consists of a source, a relay and a destination, which are all multiantenna nodes. Taking advantage of the soft information provided by the PDA detector at the relay, the authors present a relaying scheme in light of which the relay can just transmit signals to the destination under the condition of having high detection reliability. Characterised by the means on how to exploit the information provided by both the source and the relay at the destination, two detectors named as combing PDA (C-PDA) and iterative PDA (I-PDA) are developed, respectively. C-PDA adopts one PDA detector to retrieve the transmit signals by combining the received signals from the source and the relay. I-PDA employs two concatenated PDA detectors to perform detection with respect to the received signals from the source and the relay, respectively. Just as in turbo decoding, soft information is iteratively exchanged between these two concatenated PDA detectors to enhance the performance of I-PDA. Simulation results have shown that significant performance gains can be achieved by both C-PDA and I-PDA over the conventional zero-forcing detector.