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Marine Lawyers Question Haditha Video Source

Wow, this is very gratifying.

From Reuters:

Secretary-General of the Hammurabi Organization for Human Rights and Democracy Monitoring and purported Haditha witness, Thaer Thabit al-Hadithi.

Haditha defense questions key videotape

Thu Jun 15, 2006

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Attorneys for the U.S. Marines accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha will question the authenticity of a videotape at the heart of the case and the credibility of the group that provided it, sources close to the Marines say.

The videotape, given to Time Magazine in January by the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, purports to show the aftermath of a massacre in Haditha and has prompted a U.S. military probe into the November 19 incident.

Time reported that the footage shows men, women and children who have been shot to death, some in their nightclothes, as well as walls and ceilings marked with blood, shrapnel and bullet holes.

The defense sources agree the tape depicts grim war images but does not prove that a massacre took place in Haditha, especially when so much is still unknown about the source of the tape and how it was made.

"It’s clearly going to be one of the themes of the defense: How accurate is this tape and is (Hammurabi) credible?" said a source close to one of the Marines under investigation. The source, who asked not to be identified, said: "Any (prosecutor) who wants to present a videotape in court, they have to demonstrate that it’s authentic and hasn’t been tampered with."

Witnesses have said Marines opened fire on Iraqi civilians, killing 24 men, women and children in three homes and a car to retaliate for the death of their comrade in a roadside bomb. The Marines are expected to argue that the civilians died during a chaotic battle that followed the bombing.

‘WE DON’T ANSWER SUCH QUESTIONS’

Time initially reported that the tape was shot by a "journalism student" the day after the incident and described Hammurabi as working with "the internationally respected Human Rights Watch."

The magazine subsequently issued a correction on its Web site, writing that Human Rights Watch "has no ties or association with Hammurabi."

Defense lawyers say the man described by Time as a journalism student, 43-year-old Thaer Thabit al-Hadithi, was in fact the founder of Hammurabi and one of only two employees.

"Not that a 43-year-old can’t be a student or that an organization can’t be two people, but these are the kinds of things that you would bring up" in court, the source said.

A lawyer for one of the Marines under investigation, who also declined to be identified, said that Hammurabi was not a known or registered human rights organization and had no track record of reporting any other abuses.

"And it turns out these two employees have family members spending time in local prisons for insurgent activity," the attorney said. "I think the origins of the tape would have been better suited if it came from somebody who really did have altruistic motives in their heart."

Abdul Rahman al-Mashhadani, director of Hammurabi Human Rights and Democracy Monitoring, declined to answer questions from Reuters about the organization.

"We don’t answer such questions that we consider as intelligence and information gathering," he said. "They (Reuters) should have monitored the media so that they can get a good image of us."

He added: "We call for a fair investigation and we are confident that the American judicial system is fair."

The source said the tape also lacked credibility because there was nothing in the footage to establish that it was shot where and when Hammurabi claims and because it did not surface until four months after the incident.

Why won’t Hammurabi answer any questions? I thought they wanted to get the facts out?

Isn’t that their mission?

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, June 16th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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