A U.S. military court debated Thursday whether key surveillance footage can be declassified for public view at the court-martial next week of an Army tank commander charged in the killing last year of a critically wounded Iraqi.
U.S. Army Capt. Rogelio Maynulet, 30, from Chicago, has been charged with assault with intent to commit murder and with dereliction of duty, charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 1/2 years. He has not yet entered a plea.
His court-martial is due to open Monday at a military base in Wiesbaden, Germany.
At a pre-trial hearing, the court deferred until next week a decision on whether footage of the incident taken by a U.S. drone surveillance aircraft can be shown openly at the trial _ which both sides in the case favor.
However the footage contains technical information that is sensitive. A military expert, Chief Warrant Officer Jonathon Daniels, testified that technicians should be able to filter off sensitive information, allowing the raw footage of the incident to be declassified and shown to the tribunal.
The charges stem from a May 21, 2004 incident when Maynulet was leading his 1st Armored Division tank company on a patrol near the city of Kufa, south of Baghdad, where heavy fighting had been reported.
They encountered a sedan thought to be carrying a driver for radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and another militiaman loyal to the cleric. U.S. soldiers chased the vehicle and fired at it, wounding both the driver and passenger.
When a medic pulled the driver out of the car, it was clear he had suffered critical injuries, with part of his skull blown away, according to testimony heard during Maynulet's Article 32 hearing _ the military's equivalent of a civilian grand jury investigation.
Maynulet's fellow officers say he shot the man in an act of compassion to end his suffering.