[JURIST] A US military court on Tuesday began Article 32 [JAG backgrounder; USMJ text] hearings, similar to civil grand jury proceedings, to determine whether four Army soldiers charged [JURIST report] with premeditated murder of Iraqi detainees will face courts-martial. The four men from the Third Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] - Sergeant Raymond Girouard, Specialist William Hunsaker, Pfc. Corey Clagett and Specialist Juston Graber - are accused of deliberately murdering three Iraqi detainees and then covering up the murders during a May 9 raid on an alleged insurgent training camp near Tikrit.
Last week, the New York Times reported that another member of the squad in question, Sgt. Lemuel Lemus, gave a sworn statement depicting the events of the alleged murder [JURIST report]. The soldiers originally agreed that the captured detainees had broken free during a morning raid, and were shot while trying to escape and attack the squad. Lemus' account, however, depicts purposeful murder and even alleges that Squad Leader Girouard cut Hunsaker to enhance the legitimacy of their account. Lawyers for Clagett and Hunsaker dispute Lemus' account, and claim that Colonel Michael Steele, the well-known brigade commander that led a botched 1993 mission in Somalia depicted in the book and movie Black Hawk Down [Wikipedia backgrounder], ordered the soldiers to kill all military-age men prior to the raid. Steele has indicated that he will refuse to testify at the Article 32 hearing. Reuters has more.