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Iraqi militant to hang

Iraqi militant to hang

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 9:20 pm

By SAMEER N. YACOUB Associated Press Writer BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi militant accused of killing three American soldiers in a grisly checkpoint ambush was convicted today and sentenced to death by hanging. Two other men accused in the 2006 deaths were acquitted. The killing of the three 101st Airborne Division soldiers was one of the most brazen attacks against U.S. forces since the Iraq war began in 2003. The soldiers were ambushed June 16, 2006, while at an isolated checkpoint near the Euphrates River, at a time of particularly intense fighting in predominantly Sunni areas just south of Baghdad. At the time, the area was known as the Triangle of Death. One soldier was found dead at the site of the checkpoint. The two other 101st soldiers were kidnapped, sparking a massive search effort by the military. Their mutiliated bodies were found three days later at a nearby power station, tied together and booby-trapped with roadside bombs. An al-Qaida linked group later posted a Web video showing the bodies of the two soldiers being dragged behind a truck, then set on fire. The evidence against the three included fingerprints collected from the truck, which was later found abandoned, along with written testimony from villagers who witnessed the dragging incident, according to U.S. military investigators. Ibrahim al-Qaraghuli, a 29-year-old farmer, was convicted in the deaths of David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass.; Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston; and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore. The other two Iraqis on trial — Walid al-Kartani and Kazim al-Zubaie — were acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence, but it was not immediately clear whether they would be released from custody. All three men have been in custody for at least a year. Today’s court hearing was held in the fortress-like Law and Order Complex that was built last year in eastern Baghdad as part of a U.S. push to establish rule of law in Iraq and protect judicial officials from attacks by insurgents and criminal gangs. Al-Qaraghuli, who wore a green prison jumpsuit, lowered his head today but remained silent when he heard the verdict read by the chief judge, Munther Raouf Haadi. “We would have liked to have the three convictions,” U.S. Col. Rafael Lara, an adviser to the Iraqi court system, told reporters after the verdict was announced. He said the trial showed that “the rule of law is back to Iraq and being (en)forced equally by an independent judiciary. We honor the Iraqi court and we respect this decision.” During today’s 2 1/2 hour hearing, Haadi read the testimonies of six eyewitnesses and complainants. All but one of them refused to appear in person because they feared for their safety. The sixth recently died, said Haadi, who showed defense lawyers and the prosecution the man’s death certificate. Al-Kartani and al-Qaraghuli were arrested on separate days in July 2006 during security sweeps in the area. Al-Zubaie was detained a year later. The U.S. military has said at least one other suspect has been killed. Published in The Messenger 10.28.08

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