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US soldier pleads guilty in Samarra Iraqi detainee deaths case

[JURIST] US Army Spc. Juston R. Graber pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the deaths of three Iraqi detainees in Thar Thar, a town near Samarra, some 60 miles north of Baghdad, but pleaded not guilty to more serious charges [JURIST report] of attempted premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder. Graber, of the Third Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], will be required to testify against other soldiers implicated in the incident under the plea agreement [Reuters report]. Graber told the Fort Campbell [official website] military judge presiding over the court-martial proceedings that he knew his actions were unlawful.

Pfc. Corey R. Clagett, Spc. William B. Hunsaker and Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard, still face courts-martial [JURIST report] for premeditated murder [JURIST report], attempted murder, and conspiracy for allegedly shooting three Iraqi men as they fled from a raid on a suspected insurgent stronghold in Thar Thar. Graber said Tuesday that after helping to secure the area, he returned to the helicopter for a body bag. He claims to have then heard gunshots and returned to the scene whereupon he saw three men on the ground. Graber admits to then shooting one of the wounded men in order to put him "out of his misery." AP has more.

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