Soldier Testifies About Comrades' Threats
Thursday, August 3, 2006
BAGHDAD, Aug. 2 -- An American soldier testified Wednesday that comrades threatened to kill him if he disclosed their roles in the slaying of three Iraqi detainees in May in northern Iraq.
Pfc. Bradley L. Mason, 20, said at a military hearing in Tikrit that Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard threatened him on May 10, the day after the Iraqis were shot dead in a raid on a suspected base of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq near Samarra, about 65 miles north of Baghdad.
"He said that if I say anything, he'd kill me," Mason said, according to a pool report.
Later that day, Mason said, Pfc. Corey R. Clagett told him that Girouard "won't have to kill me because he'll kill me."
The case is one of several to surface in recent months in which U.S. service members have been accused of wrongfully killing Iraqi civilians, including an alleged massacre in Haditha and charges that five U.S. soldiers raped and murdered a 15-year-old girl near Mahmudiyah. The allegations have prompted strong denunciations from Iraqi leaders and critics of the U.S. military presence here.
The testimony came as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani declared that Iraqi forces would assume control over the nation's security by year's end, even as thousands of U.S. soldiers are now flooding into Baghdad to quell sectarian violence and try to return order to the capital.
"We are highly optimistic that we will terminate terrorism this year," Talabani said at a news conference. "The Iraqi forces will take over security in all Iraqi provinces by the end of this year gradually, and if God's will, we will take the lead."
Girouard, Clagett, Spec. William B. Hunsaker and Spec. Juston R. Graber have all been charged with murder and other offenses in connection with the killing of the three Iraqis. All but Graber are also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly threatening to kill Mason.
All of the accused are members of the Army's 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
Mason delivered his testimony during a so-called Article 32 hearing, after which a military court will rule whether there is sufficient evidence to court-martial the four defendants. Mason, a witness for the prosecution, was granted immunity to testify.
Mason testified that, during the May 9 raid, Girouard told his squad that Clagett and Hunsaker were going to kill three detainees who had been handcuffed.
Clagett and Hunsaker "just smiled," said Mason, who said he objected to Girouard. "I told him I'm not down with it. It's murder," he said.