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Soldier Defends His Killing of Iraqi as ‘the Honorable Thing’

From Associated Press

A U.S. Army tank company commander told a military court Wednesday that he shot a gravely wounded but unarmed Iraqi man “to put him out of his misery” and said the killing was “honorable.”

Taking the stand for the first time, Capt. Rogelio “Roger” Maynulet, 30, described the events that led him to fire twice at the man, who he maintained was too badly injured to survive.

“He was in a state that I didn’t think was justified -- I had to put him out of his misery,” Maynulet said. He argued that the killing “was the right thing to do, it was the honorable thing to do.”

Prosecutors at the court-martial say Maynulet violated military rules of engagement by shooting someone who was wounded and unarmed.

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Maynulet is being tried on a charge of assault with intent to commit murder in the May 21, 2004, killing near Kufa, south of Baghdad. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and his lawyers have argued that his actions were in line with the Geneva Convention on the code of war.

Maynulet’s 1st Armored Division tank company had been on patrol near Kufa when it was alerted to a car thought to be carrying a driver for radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr and another Sadr militiaman.

They chased the vehicle and fired at it, wounding both the passenger, who fled and was later apprehended, and the driver, whom Maynulet described killing. The incident was filmed by a U.S. drone surveillance aircraft.

The U.S. military has referred to the Iraqi driver only as an “unidentified paramilitary member,” but relatives named him as Karim Hassan, 36. The family does not dispute that he was working for Sadr.

Prosecutors grilled Maynulet on why he didn’t administer treatment to the driver, pointing out that he had been trained for medical emergency relief.

Maynulet said the company’s medic, Sgt. Thomas Cassady, had told him, “He’s gone, there’s nothing we can do.”

Questions from the six-member panel -- the equivalent of a civilian jury -- focused on whether Maynulet tried to hide his actions by failing to report the shooting at the end of the day. Maynulet said he had discussed the shooting in a debriefing immediately after the mission, and he denied that he had tried to hide the killing.

He further testified that, as company commander, he had more important priorities than saving the Iraqi, including maintaining the safety of his men.

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