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US military court convicts first civilian since Vietnam

[JURIST] A US military court in Iraq Sunday convicted [Multi-National Corps release] Alaa "Alex" Mohammad Ali [JURIST news archive], an Iraqi-Canadian translator working in the country, in connection with the February stabbing death of a fellow military contractor. The case is the first in which a civilian has been charged [JURIST report] and convicted by the military since a 2006 amendment [S 2766 materials] to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] granted the military jurisdiction over civilians accompanying US troops in a combat zone, and the first time a civilian has charged and convicted under military law since the Vietnam war. In court, Ali pleaded guilty to charges of wrongfully taking a knife belonging to a US soldier, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators, and was sentenced to five months in prison. Ali had been scheduled to face court-martial for aggravated assault [JURIST report], but the charges were reduced in exchange for the plea. AP has more.

In 2007, Congress enacted the 2008 defense authorization bill [HR 1585 materials] as an additional measure [JURIST report] to bring all civilian contractors [Parameters backgrounder] in Iraq under the military's jurisdiction. Such prosecutions had previously been impossible [USAF guidance document] because of court rulings [Grisham v. Hagan opinion text] that the military did not have jurisdiction over civilian contractors without a declaration of war by Congress.

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