[JURIST] Charges have been dropped against a US Marine in exchange for his testimony in hearings regarding the November 2005 killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive], the Marine Corps announced Tuesday. Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz, originally charged with unpremeditated murder and making a false official statement, will receive immunity for testifying against seven other Marines, who are charged [USMC charge sheet; JURIST report] with offenses ranging from murder to dereliction of duty in connection with the deaths.
The Haditha investigation has culminated in the largest US military prosecution involving civilian deaths during the war in Iraq. Iraqi witnesses claim that the Marines, led by Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich [advocacy website], shot into the homes of civilians after a fellow Marine was killed by a roadside bomb. Wuterich, who faces thirteen charges of unpremeditated murder, has maintained that his unit followed the rules of engagement [JURIST report] and did not purposefully attack civilians. An Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] will be held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to hold a court-martial for the seven. Reuters has more.