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U.S. soldier found not guilty of Iraq murders

A U.S. soldier has been acquitted of three murder charges after investigations into the killings of three Iraqis earlier this year, the U.S. military said Saturday.
/ Source: Reuters

A U.S. soldier has been acquitted of three murder charges after investigations into the killings of three Iraqis earlier this year, the U.S. military said Saturday.

A court-martial, however, did find Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley, a sniper from the 1st Battalion, 501st Airborne, guilty of wrongfully placing an AK-47 rifle beside the body of an Iraqi man.

Hensley was one of three U.S. soldiers charged with the killings of three Iraqis in separate incidents during U.S. operations between April 14 and May 11 near the town of Iskandariya, 25 miles south of Baghdad.

The charges stemmed from complaints made by other U.S. soldiers to authorities.

Hensley was found not guilty on all three charges of premeditated murder at a court-martial on Thursday at Camp Victory, the main U.S. base near Baghdad's international airport, the military said in a statement.

The guilty verdict on the charge of placing an assault rifle beside the body of an Iraqi man related to an incident on May 11. He was also found guilty on a charge of disrespect for a superior commissioned officer.

Hensley was sentenced to 135 days in jail, reduced in rank to sergeant and given a letter of reprimand.

Hensley was one of three soldiers charged with the murders.

Spc. Jorge Sandoval was found not guilty on two murder charges last month but was convicted of planting evidence on one of the bodies.

Sgt. Evan Vela has been charged with one count of premeditated murder, wrongfully placing a weapon beside a dead Iraqi, making a false statement and obstructing justice. He faces a preliminary hearing Sunday.

Incidents of American soldiers’ illegally killing Iraqis since the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003 have incensed Iraqis and added to calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.