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Haditha Marine commander faces Article 32 hearing

[JURIST] Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commander of the US Marine battalion that was accused of killing 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in November 2005, went before a military Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] Wednesday that will determine if he will face a court-martial for charges of dereliction of duty and violating a lawful order. Viewing the aftermath of the attack, Chessani said he did not order an immediate investigation into the deaths because he did not suspect any wrongdoing [JURIST report]. If convicted, Chessani could be sentenced to three years in prison.

Earlier this month, a Marine sergeant who was responsible for casualty reports for the Marine company testified at another Article 32 proceeding that officers ignored his calls to investigate the incident [JURIST report], telling him not to worry about it. Marine lawyer Capt. Randy Stone, also charged with dereliction of duty, has also said that he did not suspect wrongdoing [JURIST report] in the aftermath of the killings. Two other officers have been charged with dereliction for the same reason, and an additional three Marines have been charged with unpremeditated murder. An official report on the incident by US Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell found "serious misconduct" [JURIST report] on all levels of the US Marine Corps chain of command in connection with the killings. AP has more.

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