[JURIST] Four US Army soldiers charged [JURIST report] with the premeditated murder of Iraqi detainees refused to testify during their Article 32 hearing [Navy JAG backgrounder] Thursday, following the lead of several superior officers who invoked their right not to incriminate themselves at the hearing. The four men from the Third Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] - Sergeant Raymond Girouard, Specialist William Hunsaker, Pfc. Corey Clagett and Specialist Juston Graber - are accused of deliberately murdering three Iraqi detainees and then covering up the murders during a May 9 raid on an alleged insurgent training camp near Tikrit.
One soldier in the unit testified that he witnessed the detainees fleeing the soldiers when the soldiers opened fire, while the unit's medic testified that one of the three detainees was still alive when the medic checked on him, but heard a single shot while the medic returned to his humvee that likely killed the third detainee. Another squad member, Lemuel Lemus, provided a sworn statement [JURIST report] in June, saying that the four soldiers committed murder and even wounded themselves to make it appear as though the detainees had assaulted the soldiers. Civilian defense lawyers for the four men claim that Colonel Michael Steele, the well-known brigade commander that led a botched 1993 mission in Somalia depicted in the book and movie Black Hawk Down [Wikipedia backgrounder], ordered the soldiers to kill all military-age men prior to the raid. Steele and three other witnesses have refused to testify at the hearing, which began on Tuesday [JURIST report]. AFP has more.