From ABC News:
A Marine corporal testifying in a court-martial said Marines in his unit began routinely beating Iraqis after officers ordered them to “crank up the violence level.”
Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo testified Saturday at the murder trial of Cpl. Trent D. Thomas.
“We were told to crank up the violence level,” said Lopezromo, testifying for the defense.
When a juror asked for further explanation, Lopezromo said: “We beat people, sir.”
Within weeks of allegedly being scolded, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman went out late one night to find and kill a suspected insurgent in the village of Hamandiya near the Abu Ghraib prison. The Marines and corpsman were from 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment.
Lopezromo said the suspected insurgent was known to his neighbors as the “prince of jihad,” and had been arrested several times and later released by the Iraqi legal system.
Unable to find him, the Marines and corpsman dragged another man from his house, fatally shot him, and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to make it appear he had been killed in a shootout, according to court testimony.
Four Marines and the corpsman, initially charged with murder in the April 2006 killing, have pleaded guilty to reduced charges and been given jail sentences ranging from 10 months to eight years. Thomas, 25, from St. Louis, pleaded guilty but withdrew his plea and is the first defendant to go to court-martial.
Lopezromo, who was not part of the squad on its late-night mission, said he saw nothing wrong with what Thomas did.
“I don’t see it as an execution, sir,” he told the judge. “I see it as killing the enemy.”