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US military judge postpones Army sniper hearing on killings of unarmed Iraqis

[JURIST] A US military judge postponed an Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] on US Army sniper Sgt. Evan Vela Sunday, following a fellow Army sniper's acquittal on premeditated murder charges [JURIST report]. Vela, who has argued that he was simply following orders to "bait" and kill suspected Iraqi insurgents with materials that could be used to aid the insurgency, is charged [press release; JURIST report] with premeditated murder, obstruction of justice, wrongfully placing weapons with the remains of deceased Iraqis, and making a false official statement in connection with the killing of three unarmed Iraqis in three separate incidents between April and June 2007 in the vicinity of Iskandariyah [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Vela's preliminary hearing is expected to resume on November 10.

On Saturday, US Army Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval was sentenced to five months in prison [JURIST report] for his role in covering the shootings of three unarmed Iraqis. At Sandoval's trial Vela testified that he (Vela) had actually killed one of the Iraqis Sandoval was originally alleged to have killed. Another defendant, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, has refused to accept a plea agreement [JURIST report] and will go on trial on October 22. AP has more.

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