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Federal judge refuses to dismiss Murtha defamation lawsuit over Haditha comments

[JURIST] A federal judge has refused to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against US Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and ruled that Murtha must provide a deposition in the case. US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [advocacy website], who is facing charges [JURIST report] for his alleged role in the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians, brought the defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] last year. The lawsuit alleges that Murtha falsely accused Wuterich of war crimes during a press conference where Murtha discussed [JURIST report] the November 2005 killings in Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive]. Government lawyers had argued that the case should be dismissed because Murtha's comments came while the congressman was acting in his official capacity, but Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled Friday that Murtha must provide testimony to explain his actions. A date for the deposition has not yet been set.

Wuterich commanded the platoon implicated in the Haditha killings and suspected cover-up. He faces several counts of unpremeditated murder, as well as charges of soliciting another to commit an offense and making a false official statement. AP has more.

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