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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 January, 2005, 09:34 GMT
Soldier cleared in drowning case
Tracy Perkins
Perkins was found guilty of aggravated assault in the case
A US military court has cleared an army sergeant of killing an Iraqi civilian by ordering him into the River Tigris.

But Sgt Tracy Perkins was found guilty of assault on the man, Zaidoun Hassoun, who the prosecution say was drowned.

He was accused of ordering Mr Hassoun and his cousin into the river at gunpoint in the Iraqi city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, a year ago.

Perkins faces a maximum prison sentence of 11 years. Another soldier is to face charges relating to the same incident.

Perkins was found guilty of aggravated assault on 19-year-old Zaidoun Hassoun and his cousin, Marwan Fadel, and of obstruction of justice.

The jury in Fort Hood, Texas, deliberated for more than 16 hours before arriving at the verdict.

'No body, no evidence'

Perkins was on trial for an array of charges including the involuntary manslaughter of Zaidoun Hassoun by ordering troops to force him and his cousin into the river at gunpoint.

The incident happened on 3 January 2004 in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad.

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

He said he tried to save his cousin by grabbing his hand after they had been forced into the water, but to no avail.

On Thursday the court heard that the soldiers had laughed as his relative was swept to his death.

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

But the defence denied that the body was Zaidoun's, saying it believes both men made it to shore alive.

They argued that the jury should not convict Perkins because there was "no body, no evidence, no death".

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.

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