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Judge orders release of US Marines jailed for not testifying on Iraqi detainee deaths

[JURIST] A US district court judge Thursday released two US Marines who had previously been jailed for refusing to testify about the deaths of Iraqi detainees during the November 2004 offensive [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Fallujah [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive]. Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan G. Weemer [JURIST news archive] and Sgt. Jermaine Nelson were held in contempt of court [JURIST news report] in June and May, respectively, after appearing before a grand jury and refusing to answer questions about the role of former Marine Sgt. Jose Nazario [JURIST news archive] in the deaths of the detainees. US District Judge Stephen Larson declined to rescind his contempt rulings, but released the Marines after their attorneys argued that the detentions would never compel them to testify. In addition to the contempt charges, Nelson and Weemer each face six counts of dereliction of duty and one count of murder [USMC charge sheet] for their roles in the Fallujah killings. The Los Angeles Times more. The Marine Corps Times has additional coverage.

In July 2007, the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) [official website] announced investigations of at least 10 Marines [JURIST report] after 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. In May, a federal judge ruled that Nazario could stand trial [JURIST report] in civilian court over the deaths.

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