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.


German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.