Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 16:47 UK

US soldier jailed on Iraq murders

Court room in the Rose Barracks in Vilseck

A US soldier has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for murdering four Iraqi detainees in 2007.

Sgt Joseph Mayo, 27, was earlier convicted by a court martial of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder.

The detainees were shot and dumped in a Baghdad canal in retribution for an attack on an US patrol in the Iraqi capital in which two soldiers died.

Mayo will be eligible for parole in 10 years, the court ruled.

He had pleaded guilty to the charges during the hearing at the US Army's Rose Barracks in southern Germany.

Thrown in canal

He told the military court that the four detainees were shot in the back of the head with 9mm pistols and their bodies thrown into a canal in Baghdad.

"I thought it was in the best interests of my soldiers," Mayo told the court.

He said the men had been arrested after his unit had been attacked a number of times and that a number of weapons and ammunition were found in the building where the men were arrested.

A witness in the trial has been quoted as saying that there was an atmosphere of "frustration and fear" among the soldiers over the increasing frequency of attacks on their unit.

The judge overseeing the proceedings, Col Jeffrey Nance, said Sgt Mayo had "entered into an agreement to commit premeditated murder", which resulted in the four bound and blindfolded men being shot in the head.

Second conviction

Mayo is one of seven soldiers allegedly involved in the case and the second to be convicted for murder.

In February 2009, Sgt Joseph Leahy, 28, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the case. He told the court that he had made a bad mistake.

Two other soldiers have admitted to lesser charges.

The most senior soldier allegedly present at the killings, Master Sgt John E Hatley, is scheduled to stand trial for murder on 13 April.

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