A US Marine sergeant claimed he killed an Iraqi detainee in self-defense, but a prosecutor has charged that he ignored basic procedures and killed an unarmed man.
In opening statements at the Marine's court martial Tuesday, Ryan Weemer, 26 -- one of three Marines accused in the killings of four Iraqi detainees during the battle for Fallujah in November 2004 -- was charged with unpremeditated murder and dereliction of duty.
"This case is about doing the right thing. This case is about following the rules at a time when it's most difficult," said prosecutor Captain Nicholas Gannon at the hearing at this camp southwest of Los Angeles.
After Weemer's best friend was gunned down, he and other Marines found four men in a house -- three young men and an older man with a beard. The men were unarmed and had their hands up in the air, Gannon said.
"Ultimately, Sergeant Weemer took the man with the beard, took that detainee, pulled out his 9 mm (gun) and shot him two times," said Gannon. The accused claimed the dead man went for his (Weemer's) gun and he shot him in the chest, said the prosecutor.
"If you're gonna execute someone, would you shoot him in the chest?" countered defense attorney Paul Hackett.
"This is a tragic story that represents the reality of war," said Hackett. "Marines are put in tough positions and they have to make snap decisions."
"Not one piece of testimony that you hear will say he's (Weemer) prohibited from using deadly force in self-defense," said Hackett.
If convicted, Weemer, could be sentenced to life in prison.
Former Marine Sergeant Jose Nazario was tried on voluntary manslaughter charges and acquitted last year in federal civilian court. It was unclear whether he will testify at Weemer's court martial.
Sergeant Jermaine Nelson's court-martial was postponed last month.
Source: AFP Global Edition