Three Soldiers Charged in Iraqi Man's Drowning Death

By ERIC SCHMITT

The New York Times

July 2, 2004

WASHINGTON, July 2 Three American soldiers face manslaughter charges in the drowning of an Iraqi detainee who was forced to jump off a bridge north of Baghdad in January, the Army announced today.

A fourth soldier was charged with assault, after officials said he ordered a second Iraqi detainee to jump off the bridge over the Tigris River in Samarra. That man survived.

All four soldiers were also charged with trying to cover up the incident.

The new charges filed against the four Fourth Infantry Division soldiers come just two weeks after a soldier in the First Armored Division was charged with murder in the shooting death of an Iraqi civilian in May after a high-speed chase in Kufa, in south-central Iraq.

The Army has now opened investigations into the deaths of at least 40 Iraqi detainees, indicating a widening pattern of prisoner abuse, including deaths and assault, beyond the confines of the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad.

With the transfer of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government this week, the charges also raise new questions about the legal authority over American soldiers who are accused of crimes against Iraqis. Despite an agreement to consult on military matters, Iraq and the United States lack a formal accord governing the status of foreign forces and are relying on a directive issued by the American occupation authorities covering several important matters.

According to Army officials here, the Fourth Division soldiers were part of a patrol that detained two Iraqi men for a late-night curfew violation on Jan. 3, then ordered them to jump the bridge. One man died, but the other swam ashore.

First Lt. Jack M. Saville and Sgt. First Class Tracey E. Perkins were charged with manslaughter, assault, conspiracy, false statements and obstruction of justice. Sgt. Reggie Martinez was charged with manslaughter. Spec. Terry Bowman was charged with assault. Sergeant Martinez and Specialist Bowman were also charged with making a false official statement.

The four soldiers are from the Third Brigade of the Fourth Division, based at Fort Carson, Colo. The charges were first reported by The Denver Post.

Among various assignments, the 5,000-member brigade conducted scouting and security missions in and around the Sunni triangle region north of Baghdad.