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April 17th, 2009 - Marines Seek War Crimes Charges Against Camp Pendleton Officer

News article from the Los Angeles Times

Summary of the Haditha Massacre

Marines Seek War Crimes Charges Against Camp Pendleton Officer

 

By Tony Perry

Los Angeles Times

April 17, 2009

 

Marine Corps lawyers have asked a court to reinstate war crimes charges against an officer at Camp Pendleton in connection with the 2005 deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq..

 

The lawyers asked Thursday that the case of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani be considered by the full nine members of the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.

 

On March 17, a three-member panel on the court upheld a court-martial judge's decision to toss out charges against Chessani on grounds that an appearance of "unlawful command influence" had tainted the case.

 

The panel agreed with the judge that it was improper for a Marine lawyer who had investigated the Haditha case to sit in on meetings where the case was discussed with the general who later levied charges against Chessani and seven other Marines.

 

In its appeal, the Marine Corps argues there is no evidence the lawyer influenced the general's decision or even that he spoke at the meetings.

 

Chessani was accused of failing to order a war crimes investigation after the killings. Of eight Marines initially charged, one has been acquitted and six, including Chessani, have had charges dropped. Only Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the squad leader, still faces charges.

 

Chessani was a battalion commander when the killings in Haditha occurred. He was on his third combat tour in Iraq.

 

"The way our government has treated this true American hero is outrageous," said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which has represented Chessani.

 

Thompson said the government is giving Chessani "less legal consideration than it is giving the terrorists held at Guantanamo."

 

External link: http://tinyurl.com/crkwuk

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