U.S. Marines charged with Iraqi's murder face pretrial hearings

August 30th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: U.S. Marines charged with Iraqi's murder face pretrial hearings

Media: The Associated Press
Date: 30 August 2006

SAN DIEGO - Hashim Ibrahim Awad was shot to death in a hole by a dusty road
west of Baghdad. How the 52-year-old Iraqi came to be there is the focus of
an inquiry with possible life and death consequences for seven Marines and a
Navy corpsman.

Pretrial hearings for the eight soldiers charged with Awad's murder are set
to start Wednesday, four months after his death. It will be the first time
the facts have been explored in public.

Prosecutors claim the troops went into the rural Iraqi town of Hamdania,
took Awad from his home, tied him up, put him in the hole and shot him
without provocation April 26. The accused have been held in the brig at Camp
Pendleton since May.

Defense lawyers say the troops are innocent and question the credibility of
the Iraqis who reported the incident to U.S. authorities.

If convicted, the troops face the death penalty.

This week's hearings are part of an Article 32 probe, where an investigating
officer will decide if there is probable cause to recommend bringing the
defendants to trial. The decision rests with the convening authority, Lt.
Gen. James Mattis.

The hearings come barely two months before midterm elections in the United
States, with feelings about the war potentially determining whether
Republicans maintain control of Congress.

Gary Jacobson, a political science professor at University of California,
San Diego, said politicians would likely avoid campaigning on the case.

"Nobody is going to make political hay by criticizing soldiers in something
like the trial that is going on at Pendleton," Jacobson said.

The charges, Jacobson said, are a black eye for the Marine Corps, which
prides itself on discipline in the ranks and holding the moral high ground
in wartime.

"It is bad for them politically, it's bad for them institutionally and it's
bad for morale," Jacobson said. "It makes it harder to do their job if they
are perceived to be acting in ways that are criminal."

Little about the case has been made public. According to charging documents,
five of the troops are alleged to have shot Awad after kidnapping him from
his home. All eight are being charged with murder because prosecutors say
those who didn't shoot were complicit in the killing.

Investigators say the troops placed an AK-47 in Awad's hands, apparently to
make it look like he was an insurgent.

Several defense attorneys have said their clients gave statements to
investigators about the incident but did so under heavy-handed tactics,
including threat of the death penalty.

The case may center on the troops' statements because, with eight
defendants, it is likely at least one will cooperate with prosecutors in
return for the charges being dropped or a reduced penalty, said Gary D.
Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and judge advocate who teaches law
of war at Georgetown University Law Center.

"My understanding is there are so many statements out there, the web has
been laid," Solis said.

The case might be a prelude to another trial, in which up to 12 Marines also
based at Camp Pendleton may face murder charges in the deaths of 24 Iraqi
civilians in the town of Haditha in November. Several of those Marines have
hired attorneys.

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