US soldier charged with killing three Iraqi men was probably ordered to commit crime

Defense attorneys for a soldier charged in the death of three Iraqi detainees want the soldier's commanding officer to testify about whether he ordered the brigade to kill all military-age Iraqi men.

A military judge will hear arguments Tuesday about whether the commander should testify in the murder trial of Staff Sgt. Ray Girouard scheduled for March 13.

Col. Michael Steele, former commander of the 101st Airborne's 3rd Brigade, has denied giving such an order, and he invoked his right not to testify during an earlier hearing.

"The government is attempting to preclude us from soliciting any testimony that has to do with any orders given by Col. Steele," attorney Anita Gorecki told The Associated Press.

Military prosecutors at Fort Campbell will not discuss the case.

Girouard, 24, is the last of four soldiers charged with murder to face trial. The others pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The soldiers initially told investigators they shot the detainees during a May 9 raid in Samarra because they were attempting to flee and because commanders had given them orders to kill all military-age men.

But two of the soldiers now say Girouard ordered them to cut the detainees free and shoot them as they fled. One soldier also said Girouard cut him to make it look as if there was a struggle.

Gorecki said prosecutors are also trying to limit her cross-examination of Pfc. Corey R. Clagett and Spc. William B. Hunsaker, who both agreed to testify against Girouard in plea agreements, the AP says.

Clagett and Hunsaker were sentenced in January to 18 years in prison. A third soldier, Spc. Juston R. Graber, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to nine months in a military jail.

"Staff Sgt. Girouard is a scapegoat for the actions of others," Gorecki said. "The key witnesses against him have, in return for drastically lower sentences, agreed to testify against Girouard and have been granted immunity."

The case is one of two involving soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division accused of killing Iraqis during a deployment to Iraq that ended in September.

Four soldiers from the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team were accused of raping and killing an Iraqi teenager and killing three others in her family last March. A former Army private also faces murder and rape charges in federal court.

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