WASHINGTON—The Marines charged seven Marines and a Navy corpsman with kidnapping, murder and conspiracy Wednesday in the death of an Iraqi farmer in April.
In a separate case, military officials in Baghdad said a fourth soldier had been charged with murder and conspiracy in the deaths of three Iraqi detainees last month.
The charges were the second time in less than a week that U.S. troops have been charged with killing Iraqi civilians or detainees under criminal circumstances.
Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, Hospitalman 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, Pfc. John J. Jodka, Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington and Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda also were charged with conspiracy to commit larceny, housebreaking, assault, making false official statements and obstructing justice in the death April 26 of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, according to Marine Corps officials at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
In the second case, Army Spc. Juston R. Graber, 20, was charged with one count of premeditated murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of making a false official statement in the deaths May 9 of three detainees during operations in southern Salah ad Din province. Charges against three other soldiers in connection with those deaths were announced Monday.
Charge sheets allege that Graber conspired with the other three—Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard, Spc. William B. Hunsaker and Pfc. Corey R. Clagett—to murder three Iraqi prisoners in their custody at the Muthana Chemical Complex in Salah ad Din. The province is in the so-called Sunni Triangle, north of Baghdad, where clashes between American troops and insurgents occur almost daily.
The charges allege that Graber shot at least one of the detainees and then lied to an Army criminal investigator by saying the three detainees were already dead when he arrived in front of a house after hearing shots fired. The prisoners' identities remain unknown.
According to military officials in Baghdad, a criminal investigation was launched May 17 after another soldier raised his suspicions about the prisoners' deaths.
Charges filed against the other three soldiers allege that they threatened to kill a soldier who witnessed the killings, Pfc. Bradley L. Mason, if he told anyone about them.
The seven Marines and the Navy corpsman from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, originally told superiors that they shot Awad at around 3 a.m. April 26 after they spotted him digging a hole for a bomb in the village of Hamdania, west of Baghdad. Insurgents are active in the area.
Tribal leaders brought the case to Marine officers' attention May 1. After a preliminary inquiry, a criminal investigation was launched, said Col. Stewart Navarre, a Marine Corps officer at Camp Pendleton.
Awad's family told Knight Ridder in an exclusive interview June 2 that the Marines had killed him after he refused to become an informant. They said the troops dragged Awad from his house in the middle of the night, shot him, then planted a shovel and an AK-47 rifle next to his body to make him look like an insurgent.
Charges outlined Wednesday allege that the eight servicemen broke into Awad's home, forced him to the ground, tied his hands and feet, then kidnapped him. They also stole a shovel and an AK-47 from the home, according to the charges.
Navarre said 11 Marines and the sailor were removed from their unit May 12 and reassigned to battalion headquarters at Camp Fallujah, where they were restricted to their living quarters. They arrived at Camp Pendleton on May 24 and were placed in pretrial confinement in the brig. Four Marines were released from pretrial restriction, Navarre said. He declined to discuss their status since the case is under investigation.
In a third case, a group of Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, is under investigation for their roles in the deaths of 24 civilians, including women and children, in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha, west of Baghdad.
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.