Jason Ditz / Anti-War.com & Fadhel al-Badrani / Reuters – 2012-01-25 00:31:36
Iraq Angry and Stunned by Sentence
For US Soldier behind Mass-Killing in Haditha
Haditha Massacre ‘Sentence’ Riles Iraqis, Seen as â€˜Insultâ€™
Staff Sergeant Faces Pay Cut Over Butchering of Civilians
Jason Ditz / Anti-War.com
(January 24, 2012) — In the mother of all plea bargains, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who was charged with leading the US Marines’ massacre of 24 civilians in the Iraqi city of Haditha, plead guilty to a single count of “dereliction of duty.”
His “sentence,” such as it is, will amount to a demotion to the rank of private and a pay cut related to his loss of rank. He will serve no jail time.
The announcement has angered a number of Iraqis, particularly the relatives of the slain, who say the verdict is an insult. Khalid Salman, a lawyer for the relatives of the victims, and a cousin of one of the slain, condemned the decision. “This is not a traffic felony,” he said.
Even skeptical Iraqis weren’t prepared for this total dismissal. Saleem al-Jubouri, the head of the Iraqi parliament’s human rights committee, had already issued a condemnation on the assumption that Wuterich would face a three-month jail sentence, the maximum for the soldier’s plea bargain.
The Battle for Haditha
A Nick Broomfield Film
Iraqis Condemn US Haditha Sentence as Insult
Fadhel al-Badrani / Reuters
( January 24, 2012) — A three-month jail sentence for a US Marine sergeant accused of leading a massacre of 24 civilians in Haditha is “an insult to all Iraqis,” a relative of one of the victims said.
Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, 31, pleaded guilty on Monday at a military base in California to dereliction of duty and faces a maximum sentence of three months’ confinement, forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay for three months and a reduction in rank.
“This sentence gives us the proof, the solid proof that the Americans don’t respect human rights,” Ali Badr, a Haditha resident and relative of one of those killed, said. “This is an insult to the victims and an insult to all Iraqis.”
The last American troops pulled out of Iraq in December more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The Haditha killings, along with the abuse of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison and a 2007 shooting spree by security contractors in Baghdad, sullied America’s image around the world.
Khalid Salman, a lawyer for the Haditha victims’ relatives, said he could not believe the sentence and had to check that it was true. “This is not a traffic felony,” said Salman, who had a cousin killed in the massacre.
He criticised the length of time it took to bring the case to justice and vowed to appeal on behalf of the relatives to a US court. He said the verdict “undervalues Muslim blood.”
Wuterich was accused of being the ringleader in a series of Nov. 19, 2005, shooting and grenade attacks that left two dozen civilians dead in Haditha, a city west of Baghdad that was a hotbed of insurgent activity.
His guilty plea was part of a deal with US military prosecutors in which more serious charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault were dismissed.
Saleem al-Jubouri, the head of the human rights committee in the Iraqi parliament, said: “It (the three-month sentence) is a violation of Iraqis’ dignity and does not match the size of the crime committed and underestimates the value of human life.”
He said the committee would convene on Wednesday to discuss the sentence and called on the Iraqi government to issue a strong condemnation.
In the 2004 Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal US troops photographed themselves humiliating and intimidating detainees.
In September 2007, Blackwater workers shot dead at least 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, an incident that provoked protests in Iraq and prompted the government to deny the company a licence.
“This is a disgraceful sentence for an inhuman crime that lines up with the Abu Ghraib scandal and Nisour Square massacre,” said Hussein Ali, a 40-year-old Baghdad engineer. “History will mention this sentence and will show how the Americans have a black history that disrespects human blood.”
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