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Haditha Marine battalion commander court-martial postponed

[JURIST] A military judge Tuesday postponed the scheduled April 28 court-martial for a US Marine charged in connection with the November 2005 killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive], rescheduling the trial for June 17. According to lawyers for Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani [JURIST news archive], who faces court-martial [JURIST report] for dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order based on the allegations that he failed to properly investigate the Haditha shootings, the judge postponed the court-martial in order to decide whether several military officials were under "undue command influence" to charge the Marine. Chessani, the former commander of the Third Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment [official website], did not order an immediate investigation into the deaths because he said he did not suspect any wrongdoing. It has been alleged that the civilians were murdered in cold blood [JURIST report], but Chessani said that when he first learned of allegations that the civilians were killed intentionally he thought that the claims were baseless. If convicted on all counts, Chessani could serve up to three years in prison.

Eight Marines were initially charged in connection to the Haditha incident, though charges [text] have since been dropped against five others. The court-martial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [defense website], leader of the squad implicated in the killings, was postponed indefinitely [JURIST report] last month from an original March 3 start date, while 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson [defense website] faces court-martial in May on charges [JURIST report] that he made false official statements and obstructed justice in connection to the killings at Haditha. AP has more.

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