Hearing in IraqiM-Fs drowning continues

Second soldier testifies he saw 2 civilians on bank after they went into river

July 30, 2004|By David Kelly | David Kelly,LOS ANGELES TIMES

FORT CARSON, COLO — FORT CARSON, Colo. M-y The father of an Iraqi detainee who apparently drowned after being forced to jump into the Tigris River by four U.S. soldiers initially refused to accept money as compensation for the loss of his son, fearing it was an attempt to buy his silence, military officials said yesterday.

M-tHe was very adamant that he didnM-Ft want our money,M-v Capt. Vivian Gembara said in testimony before a military court trying to determine whether the soldiers should face court-martial in the Jan. 3 incident. M-tHe said he had enough money. He wanted justice.M-v

Gembara, an Army attorney who worked in Samarra where the incident occurred, said the $2,500 offer was simply a gesture from the U.S. government for the death of Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun. The father relented only when M-tFor f lowersM-v was written beside the payment and Gembara convinced him that the case would be investigated.

The testimony came on the second day of an Article 32 hearing to determine whether the men merit further criminal investigation.

The soldiers, members of the 3rd Combat Brigade based at Fort Carson, face various charges, some carrying maximum sentences of 10 years.

Sgt. 1st Class Tracy E. Perkins is charged with manslaughter, assault, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Sgt. Reggie Martinez is charged with manslaughter. Spc. Terry Bowman is charged with assault, and 1st Lt. Jack M. Saville faces manslaughter, assault, conspiracy, making false statements and obstruction of justice charges. Saville has not appeared because his lawyer was not prepared.

Prosecutors said the soldiers were on patrol when they detained two Iraqis for curfew violations.

The Iraqis were taken to an embankment above the Tigris and, according to prosecutors, forced to jump at gunpoint. Marwan Fadel Hassoun swam to safety while his cousin apparently drowned and was later found downriver.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys for the soldiers pressed the government for not producing a body. No American has seen the manM-Fs corpse, no autopsy was performed and when the family agreed to an exhumation, U.S. authorities declined, citing security concerns about gathering soldiers at the cemetery.

The defense also seemed surprised that prosecutors couldnM-Ft locate the survivor, who was given $10,000 by the U.S. government for damage to his truck.

Defense lawyers are trying to show that it is possible no one actually drowned that night. They said insurgents have frequently faked deaths to embarrass U.S. forces and get soldiers into trouble.

A second soldier testified yesterday that he spotted two civilians on the riverbank not long after the alleged incident. A gunner had testified Wednesday that he did not see the men forced into the river, but later saw two civilians emerging from the river through thermal imaging equipment.

Prosecutors showed a grainy video taken by the parents of the man who allegedly died. The video showed a decomposed body, wrapped in a shroud.

Later, Pvt. Rogelio Rubio said he had heard another commander threaten to force Iraqis into the river before the Jan. 3 incident.

Defense attorneys objected, and his testimony was cut short. The case will continue today.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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