16 Apr 2009

US army officer convicted of murdering Iraq detainees

2:06 pm on 16 April 2009

A sergeant in the United States army has been found guilty of the murder of four detainees in Iraq in 2007, but acquitted in the death of a fifth, following a court martial in Germany.

Master Sergeant John Hatley, 40, was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder. He had entered a plea of not guilty.

Hatley had been accused of involvement in two separate incidents. The first involved the shooting of a wounded detainee who medics said was close to death.

The second shooting, of four blindfolded detainees, allegedly took place in or near southwest Baghdad.

Hatley was the highest ranking of three soldiers to face trial for killing the four detainees who, prosecutors say, were shot "execution style".

Private Michael Leahy, a combat medic, and Sergeant First Class Joseph Mayo were found guilty in March and sentenced to life and 35 years in prison respectively, with the possibility of parole.

An exact date and location have not been determined for the second shooting, however, and the bodies, which witnesses said were dumped into a canal, have never been found.

At the time, Sergeant Hartley's unit was coming to terms with a fatal sniper attack on another sergeant a few weeks earlier.

The men were stationed at a highly exposed combat outpost in West Rashid, one of the most violent Baghdad neighbourhoods at the time.