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Iraq authorities to release US contractors accused of killing American

[JURIST] Three US contractors arrested for the killing of another contractor will be released due to insufficient evidence against them, their lawyers said Wednesday. Two other men are still being held [Washington Times report], but are expected to be released shortly. The five men were arrested [JURIST report] and accused of stabbing Jim Kitterman inside the Baghdad Green Zone [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in what is believed to be the first criminal killing since the Green Zone was formed in 2003. If the men had not been released, they would have been the first Americans to stand trial under the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF] between the US and Iraq, which removed immunity previously held by all American contractors. The suspects, whom both US and Iraqi authorities declined to identify, are expected to be released shortly [AP report].

The trial, had it occurred, would have been one of the few tests of the new SOFA since it took effect in early 2009. In April, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki claimed that a US military raid in Iraq violated the SOFA [JURIST report] because notice of the military operation was not given to the Joint Military Operations Coordination Committee. Al-Maliki said that he wanted to subject the US forces responsible for the raid to judicial proceedings. The SOFA was signed [JURIST report] in December in anticipation of the expiration of the UN mandate allowing US military presence in Iraq.

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