Military prosecutor brands accused US troops 'war criminals'

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
TIKRIT, Iraq, Aug 4, 2006 (AFP) - A military prosecutor branded four US
soldiers who have been accused of murdering Iraqi prisoners "war criminals"
on Friday and demanded they face court martial.

The prosecutor, Captain Joseph Mackey, was speaking on the last day of a
legal hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to prosecute the
troops following the May 9 slaying of three detainees.

"US soldiers must follow the laws of war. That's what makes us better than
the terrorists, what sets us apart from the thugs and the hitmen. These
soldiers did just the opposite," Mackey said, in his closing argument.

The defendants, he charged, had cut the prisoners free of their plastic
handcuffs and then "murdered them in cold blood", later falsely claiming
that the victims had escaped and assaulted their captors.

"For this, they're not war heroes, they're war criminals, and justice states
that they face trial," he concluded.

However, civilian defence lawyers acting for Private Corey Clagett, Staff
Sergeant Raymond Girouard, Specialist William Hunsaker and Specialist Juston
Graber, insisted that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.

Clagett's counsel Paul Bergrin told the tribunal that military prosecutors
had failed to produce any eyewitness testimony or forensic evidence to prove
that the Iraqis had not been lawfully killed.

Prosecution witnesses had given inconsistent statements, he and other
defence counsel alleged, and had all bar one said that they did not believe
that the defendants were men capable of premeditated murder.

"They went in to a hot LZ (landing zone) with the pre-thoughts they they're
going to fight terrorists, al-Qaeda insurgents. Every single one of them
followed their mission and their rules of engagement," Bergrin said.

The hearing ended and the panel of officers retired to decide whether the
defendants -- air assault troops from the "Rakkasans", the 3rd Brigade of
the 101st Airborne Division -- ought to face trial.

Their conclusion will be passed to the commander of the 101st, who will
announce his decision in the coming days.