Marine Pleads, Will Testify in 24 Iraqi Murders

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In a plea deal announced today in the deadliest criminal case resulting from the Iraq war, the U.S. Marine Corps has dismissed all charges against one defendant and granted him immunity.

In exchange for promised testimony by Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz against fellow Marines, the service dismissed all charges against him related to the killings of 24 civilians in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, according to news reports. Dela Cruz, 24, had been charged with one count of murder and one count of making a false report.

“Charges against him were dismissed on April 2 after the government balanced his low level of culpability in the alleged crime against the potential value of his testimony,” a Marine Corps statement said.

Another three Marines are still facing murder charges, and four others are charged with dereliction of duty for inappropriately reporting and investigating the shootings of 24 Iraqi men, women and children.

The civilians allegedly were murdered in retaliation for a roadside bomb blast that killed a popular Marine comrade. However, defense lawyers dispute this account.

For more details, see these Reuters and AP accounts.

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