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US Marine charged in Fallujah murder should face court-martial: hearing officer

[JURIST] US Marine Sgt. Jermaine A. Nelson should face court-martial for the November 2004 murder of an Iraqi detainee in Fallujah [JURIST news archive], a US Marine hearing officer found following an Article 32 pretrial hearing [JAG backgrounder]. Nelson was charged [JURIST report] in December with murder and five counts of dereliction of duty after allegedly killing an unarmed captive during a bloody battle [CNN report] between US troops and Iraqi insurgents over the city of Fallujah. He faces life imprisonment if convicted. The final decision of whether to proceed to trial rests with Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland who oversees the case as commander of Camp Pendleton's 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

In July, the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) [official website] announced investigations of at least 10 Marines [JURIST report] in connection with the Fallujah offensive after former Marine Corporal Ryan Weemer admitted during a polygraphed job interview with the US Secret Service that he had witnessed indiscriminate killings in Fallujah. Military journalist Nathaniel Helms later corroborated that account, reporting that he witnessed Marines execute subdued Iraqi prisoners, whose bodies were later buried under rubble from an air strike. Weemer was charged last month with murder and dereliction of duty in March and former Marine Sgt. Jose Nazario was charged last year with voluntary manslaughter [JURIST reports]. AP has more.

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