Military charges 8 with murder of Iraqi civilians

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Military charges 8 with murder of Iraqi civilians
by Carolyn Marshall

Left: Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, far left facing forward, and Marines with the 1st Marine Division, 3rd Battalion, Kilo and Weapons Company, relax before the expected assault on Fallujah, Camp Abu Ghraib, Iraq, on Monday, Nov. 1, 2004. Terrazas was killed by a roadside bomb on Nov. 19, 2005.
 
Seven marines and a Navy corpsman were charged today with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in connection with the shooting death of an Iraqi civilian in April.

The men, all members of the Third Battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment, have been confined to the brig here at Camp Pendleton since May, when a preliminary inquiry concluded that there was enough evidence to warrant a criminal investigation.

Officials here disclosed little information about the case itself. But earlier this month, Marine officials and members of Congress who had been briefed on the case said the eight men appeared to have dragged a 52-year-old Iraqi man from his house in the town of Hamdaniya, west of Baghdad, on April 26, and shot him without provocation…

     

They said the marines had then placed a shovel and bomb components near the man’s body to make it seem that he had been digging a hole for a roadside explosive, and also placed an AK-47 near his body.

Col. Stewart Navarre, chief of staff, Marine Corps Installations West, announced the charges here this afternoon, saying that the “Marine Corps prides itself” in holding its members accountable for their actions. “The Marine Corps takes allegations of wrongdoing very seriously and is committed to investigating such allegations.”

Four other marines are still being investigated in the case, Colonel Navarre said.

Several defense lawyers said they had not been able to review information in the case. Maj. Haythan Faraj, defense counsel for one of the marines, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, said he did not know whether his client had provided information to the military, but suggested that investigators pressured the marines to provide make statements. “There was a lot of information coerced from them,” he said. Colonel Navarre said it was too early to tell whether the actions of the men would warrant capital punishment.

The charges are the first in the military legal process. The next step is an Article 32 investigation, the military’s equivalent of a grand jury inquiry. That process could lead to a court martial or dismissal of the case.

In addition to Corporal Thomas, those charged include Marine Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, Marine Pfc. John J. Jodka, Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Marine Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington, and Marine Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda, according to the Associated Press.

Marine officials said the incident was reported by other Iraqis on May 1.

The charges come amid growing scrutiny of military personnel over the deaths of civilians and detainees in Iraq. In probably the most controversial case, a squad of marines is under investigation over the deaths of 24 civilians in the town of Haditha last November.

In addition, three solders were charged with premeditated murder on Monday in the deaths of three detainees in early May. A fourth soldier was also charged with murder today in the case, according to military officials in Iraq.

A lawyer for one of the men charged in the Hamdaniya case , Jeremiah J. Sullivan III, has said the investigation began when Iraqis asked military officials for compensation for the death.

The parents of one of the marines, Private Jodka, told The Los Angeles Times earlier this month that they thought their son was being punished out of a desire by Marine officials to rebut criticism that they were slow to react to evidence in the Haditha case.

“It appears to me that this is the reaction of some senior people to show ‘we’re in charge, we’re cleaning up our act,’ ” John Jodka Jr. told the newspaper. He said he believed that the generals figure, “If a few privates and corporals have to take it, that’s the price of keeping my stars.”


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