The men, all members of the Third Battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment, have been confined to the brig here at Camp Pendleton since May, when a preliminary inquiry concluded that there was enough evidence to warrant a criminal investigation.
Officials here disclosed little information about the case itself. But earlier this month, Marine officials and members of Congress who had been briefed on the case said the eight men appeared to have dragged a 52-year-old Iraqi man from his house in the town of Hamdaniya, west of Baghdad, on April 26, and shot him without provocation.
They said the marines had then placed a shovel and bomb components near the man’s body to make it seem that he had been digging a hole for a roadside explosive, and also placed an AK-47 near his body.
Col. Stewart Navarre, chief of staff, Marine Corps Installations West, announced the charges here this afternoon, saying that the “Marine Corps prides itself” in holding its members accountable for their actions. “The Marine Corps takes allegations of wrongdoing very seriously and is committed to investigating such allegations.”
Four other marines are still being investigated in the case, Colonel Navarre said.
Several defense lawyers said they had not been able to review information in the case. Maj. Haythan Faraj, defense counsel for one of the marines, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, said he did not know whether his client had provided information to the military, but suggested that investigators pressured the marines to provide make statements. “There was a lot of information coerced from them,” he said. Colonel Navarre said it was too early to tell whether the actions of the men would warrant capital punishment.
The charges are the first in the military legal process. The next step is an Article 32 investigation, the military’s equivalent of a grand jury inquiry. That process could lead to a court martial or dismissal of the case.