San Diego: An ex-Marine at the centre of a probe into whether American troops killed between five and 10 unarmed captives during a battle in Iraq is a hero who faced vicious enemies, his lawyer said.
Former Corporal Ryan Weemer sought a lawyer earlier this year because he was concerned Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents wanted to question him, attorney Paul Hackett of Cincinnati said on Friday.
"Weemer is an American hero," Hackett said. "Every American should be on their hands and knees thanking their god there are men in the American military like Ryan Weemer doing the heavy lifting their country requires."
Weemer, 24, is at the centre of a military probe into the actions of his Camp Pendleton-based squad in Fallujah on or about November 10, 2004.
The investigation was launched after Weemer left the Marines and applied for a job with the Secret Service, according to a military writer, Nathaniel Helms, who interviewed him last year. Weemer described the killings of the suspected insurgents when asked before a polygraph test if he had ever participated in a wrongful death.
Hackett declined to comment on Weemer's discussions with the Secret Service but said his client had not yet spoken to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
Helms, however, said Weemer told him he spoke to the NCIS in April or May 2006.
Weemer was a rifleman in a four-man fireteam in the 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Hackett said.
Lieutenant Colonel Willard A. Buhl, commander of the battalion at the time of the alleged killings, said: "I like to let the justice (system) work itself through procedurally."
Helms said Weemer told him about the killings last year for a book he was writing on Fallujah, saying the suspected insurgents had been held in an abandoned house after being captured in combat.
Discharge: Veteran to escape court-martial for going AWOL
An Iraq war veteran will not be court-martialled for leaving his post without permission for 15 months to undergo treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, the Army said.
Instead of facing a bad conduct discharge - a felony punishable by up to a year in military prison - Special Eugene Cherry admitted he was absent without leave and was granted a general discharge, rather than an honourable discharge, the Army said on Friday.
"It really wasn't about proving I went AWOL - that's a given," Cherry said.
Cherry, 24, who was to be tried by court-martial tomorrow, encountered horrific battle experiences during 13 months as a combat medic in Iraq. Five months after his return in June 2005, he says he went home to Chicago to find mental health treatment after the Army failed to provide him with adequate help.