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Soldier to be tried in killings of Afghan civilians

The Army announced Friday it will try on murder charges the first of five soldiers accused of killing three civilians in Afghanistan.
Image:
Spc. Jeremy MorlockU.S. Army via AP
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

The Army announced Friday it will try on murder charges the first of five soldiers accused of killing three civilians in Afghanistan.

Cpl. Jeremy Morlock is accused of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, assault and impeding an official investigation.

Morlock, 22, will now go to court martial, where a military judge will arraign him. No court date has been set.

Morlock is one of five soldiers accused of killing civilians for sport in a recent Stryker brigade deployment. All have denied the accusations. Seven others are charged with less serious offenses.

Morlock, if convicted, faces life in prison.

The charges were announced Friday. The court-martial charges were referred this week by the General Court-Martial Convening Authority.

The case has drawn intense media attention because Morlock and fellow soldiers are accused of taking ghoulish photos of corpses and keeping body parts as war trophies — inflammatory charges that echo worldwide outrage at pictures of nude Iraqi prisoners of war taken by U.S. military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The case against all 12 stems from their recent deployment as part of the 5th Stryker Brigade, recently renamed the 2nd Stryker Brigade, in Kandahar province, a stronghold for Taliban insurgents.

Morlock's civilian lawyer, Michael Waddington, has said his client is innocent and that the case against him was based on thin evidence, including statements the corporal made while under the influence of prescription drugs he was taking for pain relief, stress and sleep problems.

Pentagon officials, while stressing the charges have yet to be proven, acknowledged the nature of the allegations are damaging to America's image, and the image of the U.S. military in particular, around the world.

A Pentagon spokesman said that the next Article 32 hearing in the case is set for Oct. 19 for a soldier charged with conspiracy to commit murder of Afghan civilians.