Marine lawyers to question videotape evidence at center of Haditha allegations

[JURIST] Defense lawyers for the US Marines accused of killing 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha [JURIST report] last November plan to scrutinize the authenticity of the videotape [AP report] described in the TIME magazine report [text] that first prompted an investigation into the deaths, should charges be filed against the Marines. Attorneys will also question the credibility of Hammurabi Human Rights, the two-person human rights group that provided the videotape to TIME. The videotape depicts the aftermath of the deaths at Haditha, where Marines originally reported that 15 civilians died from a roadside bomb. Questions remain why Hammurabi waited four months to release the videotape to the mainstream media. Defense attorneys say that the videotape offers no proof that the video was taken either in Haditha, or last November after the deaths occurred.

TIME initially reported, when it broke the story in March, that a "journalism student" shot the video and handed it over to Hammurabi, a group that TIME reported to be connected to the well-known group Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. TIME later retracted its statements, saying that Hammurabi had no connection to HRW, and that the "journalism student" was actually Thaer Thabit al-Hadithi, the 43-year old founder of Hammurabi. Attorneys representing the Marines are also suspicious of the fact that family members of both employees of Hammurabi have relatives that are suspected insurgents serving time in local prisons.

The US military and Iraqi officials [JURIST report] are conducting parallel probes into the deaths of 24 civilians last November in Haditha, where the US military initially reported that 15 civilians had been killed in an insurgent bombing. A preliminary US investigation [JURIST report] suggested the victims had been shot and had not provoked the Marines. The Washington Times has background [op-ed] on the Hammurabi video. Reuters has more.

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