US soldier faces court on Iraq murder charges

US Sergeant First Class Joseph P. Mayo faces a court martial in the southern German city of Vilseck on Monday, accused of murdering a bound and blindfolded Iraqi prisoner near Baghdad.

US soldier faces court on Iraq murder charges
A file photo of US troops in Iraq. Photo: DPA

Mayo has been charged with premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, and obstruction of justice, according to an army statement.

He was one of seven soldiers implicated in the case, and one of three non-commissioned officers to be tried for murder.

Master Sergeant John E. Hatley has also been accused of participating in the executions of four Iraqi prisoners in March or April 2007 and is to stand trial at barracks near this small town on April 13, an army statement said last week.

Co-defendant Sergeant Michael P. Leahy, an army medic, has pleaded guilty and was sentenced in February to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Hatley faces similar charges “stemming from a separate incident that occurred in early January 2007,” the army said.

All the soldiers were with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, which is now part of the 172nd Infantry Brigade based in Germany.

Two other soldiers have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and been sentenced to prison terms of less than a year, US media reports said, while the army has dropped criminal charges against two other sergeants, a spokeswoman told AFP.

According to media reports, Hatley, Mayo and Leahy allegedly killed four Iraqi prisoners with pistol shots to the head and pushed their bodies into a Baghdad canal after attacks on a US patrol killed two soldiers.

US military law forbids harming enemy combatants once they are disarmed and in custody.

The New York Times quoted statements and court documents in which Mayo and Leahy each told of killing at least one of the Iraqi detainees on instructions from Hatley.

The paper said it had obtained the documents from someone close to a soldier in the unit who insisted on anonymity and who had an interest in the outcome of the legal proceedings.

According to those documents, the US soldiers detained the Iraqis following a firefight and seized automatic weapons, grenades, and a sniper rifle, but were told by superiors to release the men for lack of sufficient evidence.


Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.