[JURIST] A former US Marine sergeant pleaded not guilty in a California federal court Wednesday to two counts of voluntary manslaughter for killing two Iraqi insurgents during the Multinational National Force-Iraq's November 2004 offensive [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Fallujah [Wikipedia backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The criminal complaint [PDF text] against Jose Nazario accuses the former sergeant and squad leader of ordering his squad to shoot several unarmed Iraqi men in a house they had just searched. Nazario denies all charges. His lawyers say it is highly unusual for civilian prosecutors to prosecute a decorated veteran for war crimes. AP has more.
Nazario was charged [JURIST report] in August after he was arrested and taken into custody by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) [official website]. In July, the NCIS announced investigations of at least 10 Marines [JURIST report] in connection with the Fallujah offensive. The latest allegations came after former Marine Corporal Ryan Weemer, during a polygraphed job interview with the US Secret Service, admitted he had witnessed indiscriminate killings in Fallujah. Military journalist Nathaniel Helms has allegedly corroborated the account, reporting that he witnessed Marines execute subdued Iraqi prisoners, whose bodies were later buried under rubble from an air strike.