US Marine sues congressman for Haditha war crimes comments

US Marine sues congressman for Haditha war crimes comments

[JURIST] Attorneys for a US soldier under investigation for civilian killings in Iraq filed a defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Wednesday against Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) [official website] in a Washington DC federal court. The suit alleges that Murtha falsely accused US Marine Corps sergeant Frank Wuterich of war crimes during press conferences where Murtha discussed [JURIST report] the alleged killing of 24 Iraqi civilians [JURIST report] by Marines in the city of Haditha in November, 2005. Wuterich, whose name was never specifically mentioned by Murtha, is currently a subject of a Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) probe into his involvement in the deaths, and has not been charged. The suit also repeats Wuterich's version of the incident. Wuterich has previously said that Iraqi civilians were killed during a house-to-house hunt for insurgents who fired at his squad, but that no cold-blooded murders occurred.

Murtha released a statement [text] Wednesday saying that his public comments regarding the Haditha allegations were intended to "draw attention to the horrendous pressure put on our troops in Iraq and to the cover-up of the incident." Lawyers for Wuterich say that while the lawsuit seeks over $75,000 in compensatory damages, the true purpose of the litigation is to clear Wuterlich's name and to hold Murtha accountable for allegedly false statements, which the lawsuit argues were made outside of Murtha's role as a US congressman. AP has more.