Friday, January 12, 2007

18 year sentence for Iraq detainee murders

In what is one of the longest sentences handed down for abuses/homicides in Iraq and Afghanistan, a military tribunal in Kentucky decided that Spc. William Hunsaker should serve 18 years in prison for the murder of three Iraqi detainees in Thar Thar in May 2006. Three restrained, cuffed men were shot in the head at the canal in Thar Thar, Samarra Iraq on May 9. Four members of the 101st airborne division faced charges for these murders, and after pressure by prosecutors, one by one they broke their pact to cover-up the killings.

Hunsaker pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice to military prosecutors.

He accused his superior, Sgt Raymond Girouard, who awaits trial, with ordering the executions. Some reports claim that commanding officers gave a "kill all military-age men" order that day in May 2006. One of these is Colonel Michael Steele who is known for his connection to the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in Mogadishu in 1991.

Another Sergeant Lemuel Lemus is implicated in the cover-up of the killings but has not been charged.

According to a New York Times article of July 2006:

For more than a month after the killings, Sgt. Lemuel Lemus stuck to his story. ‘Proper escalation of force was used,’ he told an investigator, describing how members of his unit shot and killed three Iraqi prisoners who had lashed out at their captors and tried to escape after a raid northwest of Baghdad on May 9. Then, on June 15, Sergeant Lemus offered a new and much darker account.

In a lengthy sworn statement, he said he had witnessed a deliberate plot by his fellow soldiers to kill the three handcuffed Iraqis and a cover-up in which one soldier cut another to bolster their story. The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked. Later, one guilt-stricken soldier complained of nightmares and ‘couldn’t stop talking’ about what happened, Sergeant Lemus said.

[…] When investigators asked why he did not try to stop the other soldiers from carrying out the killings, Sergeant Lemus - who has not been charged in the case - said simply that he was afraid of being called a coward. He stayed quiet, he said, because of 'peer pressure, and I have to be loyal to the squad.'

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