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US soldier to testify against alleged co-conspirator in Iraq detainee deaths

[JURIST] A military judge ruled that a US Army sergeant may testify for the prosecution against Sgt. Michael Leahy Jr., who is charged [JURIST report] in connection with the killing of four Iraqi prisoners, as court-martial proceedings began Tuesday. Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham will be allowed to testify [AP report], despite defense counsel's objection that its limited time to prepare for this witness puts Leahy at a disadvantage. Cunningham had been charged as a co-conspirator in the murders until last week when his charges were dropped. Leahy's lawyer argued that the government's advantage is further strengthened in light of its several months of conversations with Cunningham. Leahy faces life in prison and dishonorable military discharge if convicted.

Leahy faces court-martial [JURIST report] on charges of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and obstruction of justice, and is among six members of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry [unit website] accused in killings that took place between March 10 and April 16, 2007. The prisoners were allegedly shot in the head while bound and blindfolded before being dumped in a canal. Fellow unit members Spc. Belmor Ramon and Spc. Steven Ribordy have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and accessory to murder [JURIST reports], respectively, in connection with the incident.

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