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US soldier rejects plea agreement on Iraqi civilian pre-meditated murder charges

[JURIST] US Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley has refused to accept a plea agreement [Citizen-Times report] and maintains his innocence on allegations that he and two other soldiers killed three unarmed Iraqis and then placed weapons next to the bodies, according to an interview with Hensley's mother published in Wednesday's Asheville Citizen-Times. Hensley has been charged [JURIST report] with premeditated murder, wrongfully placing weapons with the remains of deceased Iraqis, and obstruction of justice for his alleged involvement in the three separate incidents that occurred between April and June 2007 in the vicinity of Iskandariyah, Iraq [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Hensley's mother told the Citizen-Times that he did not accept a military plea deal because while he admits that the killings happened, Hensley maintains that the deaths were lawful.

Specialist Jorge G. Sandoval, Jr. was charged with Hensley in late June, followed by the charging [JURIST report] of US Army Sgt. Evan Vela two days later with premeditated murder, obstruction of justice, wrongfully placing weapons with the remains of decreased Iraqis, and making a false official statement in connection with the killings. The three will face an Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] to determine whether they will face courts-martial. If convicted of premeditated murder, Hensley, Sandoval, and Vela could face the death penalty. AP has more.

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