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Marine says urinated on dead Iraqi at Haditha

Marty Graham, Reuters

May 10, 2007

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Reuters) - Angered that a beloved member of his squad had been killed in an explosion, a U.S. Marine urinated on one of the 24 dead Iraqi civilians killed by his unit in Haditha, the Marine testified on Wednesday.

Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz, who has immunity from prosecution after murder charges against him were dismissed, also said he watched his squad leader shoot down five Iraqi civilians who were trying to surrender.

In dramatic testimony in a pretrial hearing for one of the seven Marines charged in the Nov. 2005 Haditha killings and alleged cover-up, Dela Cruz described his bitterness after a roadside bomb ripped Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, known as T.J., into two bloody pieces.

"I know it was a bad thing what I've done, but I done it because I was angry T.J. was dead and I pissed on one Iraqi's head," said an unemotional Dela Cruz in a military courtroom in Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, California.

Dela Cruz also said he watched squad leader Sgt. Frank Wuterich shoot five men whose hands were tied up near a car. Dela Cruz said he also shot the five men as they laid on the ground.

Wuterich "walked to me and told methat if anybody asked, they were running away and the Iraqi Army shot them," Dela Cruz testified.

Three Marines have been charged with murder, and four officers have been charged with dereliction of duty and obstructing the investigation.

Prosecutors contend the killings were revenge for Terrazas' death, while the Marines charged say it was a clearing operation, conducted under lawful orders, that had disastrous results.

Squad leader Wuterich's lawyer later called Dela Cruz's testimony false.

"It's about the fourth or fifth version of events we've heard from Sgt. Dela Cruz. It's false, of course," Neal Puckett said in an e-mail. "It's just so sad that he is being required to testify against his fellow Marine NCO in order to guarantee his freedom. He's a victim, too."

ASKED TO LIE

The Marine Corps initially reported the deaths as a result of the bombing and a firefight with insurgents. Reporting by Time magazine in January 2006 later prompted the Marine Corps to investigate the killings.

Dela Cruz said he was asked four times to lie about what happened in Haditha, although no one asked him about the killings for a time.

A Chicago native, Dela Cruz saw intense action in his first Iraq tour of duty in 2004. A Marine Corps News article once featured him as one of the unsung heroes of the Iraq war.

Wednesday's hearing focused on Capt. Randy Stone, who served as the legal advisor for the Kilo Company. Stone, 34, is charged with violating an order and two counts of dereliction of duty in connection with the killings.

On Nov. 19, a convoy of Marines from the Kilo Company was traveling through the town of Haditha when a roadside bomb detonated, killing Terrazas and injuring two others. Surviving Marines stopped a car and shot its five occupants, then swept through two houses, killing the people inside.

According to testimony, the five men in the vehicle were the first of the 24 victims. Dela Cruz said that after he helped Wuterich shoot the men, he went in one direction with Iraqi soldiers while Wuterich went in another direction.

Another Marine, Sgt. Albert Espinosa, testified on Wednesday that he pressed for an investigation of the killings almost immediately after it occurred in November 2005.

He testified Wednesday that he was frustrated by the apparent indifference of his commanding officers. "We deserve an answer to what happened and wasn't happy with the answers I was getting," 1st Sgt. Albert Espinosa testified.


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