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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 22:40 GMT
Iraq marine to face murder trial
Sgt Lawrence Hutchins
Sgt Hutchins faces charges of murder, conspiracy and kidnapping

A US marine is to go on trial next April on charges of plotting the kidnapping and killing of an Iraqi civilian earlier this year.

Sgt Lawrence Hutchins is alleged to be the ringleader of a group of troops that killed an Iraqi grandfather in the town of Hamdaniya in April 2006.

Sgt Hutchins did not enter a plea but has the right to do so at a later date.

Three other marines and a navy medic have already testified of their involvement in the attack.

The terms of their sentences were reduced because they had made pre-trial agreements to testify against fellow servicemen.

The incident is one of several cases of suspected unlawful killing that have damaged the image of the US troops in Iraq.

'Frustrated mission'

The hearing at Camp Pendleton Marine base in southern California ordered Sgt Hutchins to stand trial on 23 April next year on charges of murder, conspiracy and kidnapping.

He could face life in prison if convicted.

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Sgt Hutchins is alleged to have masterminded a plan to kill Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a disabled Iraqi grandfather and former policeman.

It is alleged that the eight-strong team, led by Sgt Hutchins, went on an unauthorised mission to find a suspected insurgent.

When they failed to find him, the men became frustrated and dragged a disabled grandfather, Hashim Ibrahim Awad, from his home, bound and beat him and then shot dead.

In another high profile case, US soldiers are facing the prospect of prosecution over the deaths of 24 Iraqis at Haditha in November 2005.






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