Marine pleads innocence in Iraqi shooting
27 September 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Dutch marine Erik O. insisted at the start of his trial on Monday that he did not breach the rules of military engagement during an incident in Iraq that allegedly led to the death of a civilian.
27 September 2004
AMSTERDAM — Dutch marine Erik O. insisted at the start of his trial on Monday that he did not breach the rules of military engagement during an incident in Iraq that allegedly led to the death of a civilian.
The public prosecution claimed in Arnhem Court that the sergeant-major unlawfully fired a shot at a group of Iraqis who were trying to loot a container that had fallen off a truck on 27 December last year. It claims one man was killed in the shooting and that O. had no reason to open fire.
O. and his Quick Reaction Force team were requested to provide assistance at the scene, but according to fellow marines, there was no threat requiring shots to be fired, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.
The accused told the court room that it had been necessary to fire a warning shot, claiming the situation could have gotten out of control. "Danger and an acute life threatening situation could have arisen," he said.
He continued: "I wanted to make it clear that the people had to go. I have responsibility for my people and the decision to shoot was well considered. I wanted to protect us against a potential surprise attack".
O. was arrested after the death of an Iraqi civilian and flown home to the Netherlands, initially on suspicions of murder or manslaughter. He was released from custody in January due to a lack of evidence and the more serious charges have since been dropped.
His arrest sparked sharp criticism at the time from military unions and MPs, raising concerns about the clarity of military instructions issued to Dutch soldiers in Iraq. There are currently about 1,300 Dutch troops in Iraq.
Foreign Minister Ben Bot advised the prosecution against exhuming the body of the deceased Iraqi. The prosecution wanted to conduct further inquiries to determine if the man had been killed by a bullet fired by the defendant.
The man's body had not been inspected shortly after the incident last year and a spokesman for Bot confirmed on Saturday that the minister had advised against conducting an examination now based on "religious sensitivities".
The marine's trial will extend into Wednesday and possibly also Thursday. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted of breaching the rules of engagement.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news