A US sergeant convicted of murdering four bound and blindfolded Iraqis was sentenced to life in prison today.
John Hatley was found guilty yesterday of premeditated murder and conspiracy in the execution-style killings of the prisoners.
The prosecution said Hatley acted as “judge, jury and executioner” to hatch the plot and carry out the killings in spring 2007.
Hatley and two others took the men to a canal in Baghdad’s West Rasheed neighbourhood where they shot them in the back of the head with 9mm pistols.
The soldier, who had served in the first Gulf War, Kosovo and in Iraq, denied the charges.
Army prosecutor Capt Derrick Grace said that testimony had pointed to “a complete breakdown of discipline and crimes that are among the worst of a soldier”.
“On two separate occasions, the accused became the judge, jury and executioner,” he said.
Prosecutors said Hatley oversaw the shootings of detainees and had told his comrades they were going to “take care” of the Iraqis.
Hatley’s lawyer David Court told the court martial in Germany there was no physical evidence that the killings had happened.
The four Iraqis were taken into custody after an exchange of fire with Hatley’s unit and the discovery of weapons in a building where suspects had fled.
Two soldiers in Hatley’s unit, Sgt 1st Class Joseph Mayo and then-Sgt Michael Leahy, were convicted of the killings at separate courts martial earlier this year.
Another two soldiers pleaded guilty over the spring incident, one to conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and one to accessory to murder, and were jailed last year. Two others had charges of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder dropped this year.
All were with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Baghdad. The unit is now part of the Germany-based 172nd Infantry Brigade.