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Los Angeles Times
29 July 2004
Soldier Testifies Unit Was Ordered to Throw Iraqis over Embankment
By David Kelly
Ft. Carson, Colo. - The Iraq of Army Spc. Ralph Logan was a land of
A place where going by the book was sometimes impossible while
abandoning all principles was unthinkable.
But what happened sometime after 11 p.m. on Jan. 3 wasn't gray at all.
"It was black," the soldier said.
Logan was testifying Wednesday in a military courtroom in a case in
which four soldiers faced charges of forcing two Iraqi civilians to jump
off an embankment into the Tigris River. One man is believed to have
drowned. The other swam to safety.
The soldiers, members of the 3rd Combat Brigade based at Ft. Carson,
face a variety of charges, some carrying maximum sentences of 10 years in
prison. They were the subjects of an Article 32 hearing Wednesday, similar
to a preliminary hearing in a civilian court. The judge, in this case an
investigating military officer, hears the evidence and can recommend a
Soldiers from the unit took the stand and described seeing two Iraqi
civilians picked up for curfew violations.
Logan, a member of the platoon, said before the Iraqis were arrested
he heard a voice over the radio in his Bradley Fighting vehicle saying if
they found anyone out after curfew "they're going to get wet."
The Iraqis told the soldiers they had run out of gas while picking up
supplies for their plumbing business. One man raised suspicion when he
produced a child's identification for himself.
"We put them in the vehicle and drove off," Logan said. "I thought we
were going to warn them about violating curfew."
But Logan said the men were driven to a bridge over the Tigris. "Sgt.
Martinez told us to take them to the river but I refused," he said
referring to Sgt. Reggie Martinez.
Another witness, Sgt. Alexis Rincon, went along.
"Logan didn't want to take part but I said 'No problem,' " Rincon told
the court. "They were standing about 4 feet from the edge, and Martinez
pointed his weapon at them and told them to jump. The first guy hesitated,
he didn't want to. Spc. Bowman grabbed him and led him to the edge,"
Rincon said referring to Spc. Terry Bowman.
Marwan Abdul-Hakin Fadel, who witnesses called 'the fat one,' was
forced in first. He then shouted in Arabic to his friend Zaydun Fahdil who
also jumped from the 12-foot high ledge. Rincon said he saw the first man
make it to shore but not the second. The water was about 24 feet deep.
The family of the second man said his body showed up downriver weeks
later after he apparently drowned. The family sent an e-mail to the Army,
which launched an investigation against four soldiers.
Sgt. 1st Class Tracy E. Perkins was charged with manslaughter,
assault, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Sgt. Martinez was charged
with manslaughter. Spc. Bowman was charged with assault. First Lt. Jack
Saville faces manslaughter, assault, conspiracy, making false statements
and obstruction of justice charges. Saville did not appear Wednesday
because his lawyer was not prepared.
Defense attorneys for the soldiers said the men never intended to kill
anyone, and there was no hard evidence that the second man died as a
result of the incident or even that he was dead. They said he was not seen
by anyone but his family before he was buried.
The defense also brought in a witness who said it was a common
practice in Iraq to claim a family member was killed by U.S. troops to get
money. In this case, the family of the man believed to have died received
$2,500; the survivor got $10,000 for damage done to his car.
Tony Fincher, a gunner in the platoon that night, told the court he
saw two men walking along the riverbank through his night vision equipment
after the Iraqis were forced into the river.
Witnesses said after the incident that they were urged to mislead
"The senior NCOs [noncommissioned officers] didn't tell us to lie, but
they told us to say we detained the Iraqis, brought them to the bridge and
let them go," Logan said.