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US troops 'laughed as Iraqi died'

BBC | January 6 2005

An Iraqi civilian has testified that US soldiers forced him and his cousin to jump into the River Tigris and laughed as his relative was swept to his death.

"He was calling my name, said: 'Help me! Help me!'" Marwan Fadel Hassoun told a military trial in Texas.

Army Sgt Tracy Perkins, 33, is on trial for an array of charges including involuntary manslaughter.

Three other soldiers have also been charged over the incident in the city of Samarra on 3 January 2004.

Mr Fadel said he and his cousin were transporting plumbing supplies from Baghdad to the city when they were approached by US troops when their truck broke down a few minutes before a 2300 curfew.

He said they were forced to the river at gunpoint.

"We started to beg them not to throw us in the water," he said through a translator.

"We said in English, 'Please, please', but it was in vain.

"The soldiers had their rifles aimed at us. They were laughing."

He said he tried to save his 19-year-old cousin by grabbing his hand, but to no avail.

The court was shown a picture of a corpse which Mr Fadel's family say they pulled from the river and buried.

Body to be exhumed

"The last time I saw my son, he was a dead body," Mamoun Hassoun, the father of Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun, told the court.

The defence denies that the body is Zaidoun's, saying it believes both men made it to shore alive.

The trial of another soldier accused in the case, 1st Lt Jack Saville, has been postponed so that the body can be exhumed and examined.

Both men are charged with involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, aggravated assault, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators. They could receive up to 29 years in prison if convicted.

Sgt Reggie Martinez is charged with manslaughter and Specialist Terry Bowman is charged with assault.