[JURIST] US military prosecutors plan to file conspiracy and murder charges against seven enlisted Marines and one Navy corpsman for the alleged murder of an Iraqi civilian and subsequent cover-up on April 26 in Hamandiya, according to a defense lawyer for one of the men involved. US commanders in Iraq ordered the Naval Criminal Investigative Service [official website] to investigate the incident [MNF-Iraq press release] late last month after local Iraqis told Marine leaders about it at a regularly scheduled May 1 meeting. The seven Marines allegedly dragged the man out of his house to shoot him, then placed an AK-47 and a shovel near his body to make him appear as though he were an insurgent burying a roadside bomb. The charges could come as early as Friday, but Marine officials will likely not release them until Monday. Some of the seven Marines from Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment [official website] and the Navy corpsman will face murder charges, while others will likely face charges for dereliction of duty and assisting in the cover-up.
If military prosecutors do press charges, an Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder; UCMJ text], similar to a grand jury investigation, will be held for the Marines and Navy corpsman. At the hearing, the presiding officer will determine whether the case should proceed to court-martial. The probe into the death of the Hamandiya man is not related to the concurrent probes into the death of 24 Iraqi civilians [JURIST news archive] in Haditha last November. AP has more. The Los Angeles Times has local coverage.