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Haditha investigator recommends dismissing charges against US Marine

[JURIST] A military investigating officer in the case against Lance Cpl. Justin L. Sharratt [advocacy website], accused in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in November 2005, has recommended dropping all charges against Sharratt according to Wednesday reports. In his Investigating Officer's Report [PDF text], released by Sharratt's lawyers Tuesday, Ware described the government's allegations that Sharratt was responsible for several of the deaths as unsupported, saying that witness testimony was unreliable and that forensic evidence tended to support Sharratt's version of the events rather than the government's. Ware concluded that Sharratt acted consistent with the rules of engagement, and recommended that the charge and specifications be dismissed without prejudice and that Sharratt be given testimonial immunity with orders to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the Haditha incident.

The Haditha investigation has culminated in the largest US military prosecution involving civilian deaths during the war in Iraq. Four officers have been charged with dereliction of duty offenses and an additional three Marines have been charged with unpremeditated murder. Iraqi witnesses say that 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 13 charges of unpremeditated murder, has maintained that his unit followed the rules of engagement [JURIST report] and did not purposefully attack civilians. The Washington Post has more.

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