Hearing Continues in Iraq for Soldier Accused of Murder
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2004 Three witnesses testified today during the second day of a hearing convened to help determine whether a soldier in Iraq should be tried for murder in connection with an Iraqi civilian's death.
The hearing is part of what the military calls an "Article 32 investigation," so named because that's the article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that requires it. An Article 32 hearing corresponds to a grand jury in civilian courts; however, the accused in the military system is entitled to rights that apply only to trials in the civilian courts. The Article 32 investigator will make a recommendation to the soldier's court-martial convening authority as to whether a trial is warranted.
At issue is whether Army Staff Sgt. Cardenas J. Alban of Company C, 1st Battalion, 42nd Infantry Regiment, will be tried for one specification of premeditated murder and one specification of conspiracy to commit murder. Alban and another soldier from his company, Staff Sgt. Johnny M. Horne Jr., are accused of conspiring and committing the murder of an Iraqi civilian in the Thawra district. An Article 32 hearing for Horne is scheduled Oct. 26.
According to the lead prosecutor's Oct. 21 opening statement, on the night of Aug. 17, soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, encountered Iraqi men in a dump truck who were allegedly placing bombs along a road, and engaged the men with small-arms fire. The battalion's Company C arrived at the scene in Bradley fighting vehicles soon after the engagement, the lead prosecutor said, finding a burning truck with casualties around it, and then provided security and evaluated the casualties.
The first witness at the hearing, a Criminal Investigation Division special agent, presented information he had gathered through interviews with witnesses.
According to the witness accounts, soldiers of C Company's 3rd Platoon tried to rescue an Iraqi man from the burning truck. The man had severe abdominal wounds, burns, and was thought by several of the witnesses to be beyond medical help, the agent said.
Alban, his platoon leader and another staff sergeant in the platoon decided "the best course of action was to put (the victim) out of his misery," the agent said witnesses alleged, and witnesses reported they saw Alban fire multiple rounds into the victim with a rifle.
At today's session, the investigating officer heard testimony from a CID special agent and two soldiers who witnessed the alleged incident. At the next session of Alban's hearing, scheduled for Oct. 25, the investigating officer will hear from an Iraqi who witnessed the alleged incident, as well as another CID agent.
A written statement from Multinational Force Iraq officials emphasized the Article 32 hearing is part of an investigation and is not a trial. "All the incidents are under investigation," the statement said. "All accused soldiers have yet to be tried in this matter. The charges are merely accusations. Alban and Horne are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty."
If tried and convicted, Alban faces life in prison as a minimum, and could receive the death penalty.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)