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U.S. soldiers sentenced for Iraqi interpreter’s shooting death

Doug Struck Washington Post

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Two U.S. soldiers were sentenced to prison terms Saturday for the shooting death of an Iraqi interpreter in November at an army base in Baghdad.

One of the soldiers said that he and his colleague had been “joking and horseplaying” with the translator when the trigger was pulled on a pistol pointed at her head. The soldiers said they did not realize the gun was loaded.

Spc. Charley Hooser, 28, of Midland, Texas, received a three-year term for involuntary manslaughter and filing a false report. Spc. Rami Dajani, 24, a Palestinian who attended school in the United States and served as an interpreter, was sentenced to 18 months for being an accessory after the fact and for filing a false report.

Both men were ordered demoted to the rank of private and dishonorably discharged.

The soldiers had originally told investigators that the interpreter, identified in court as Luma Hadi, 28, had accidentally shot herself, according to testimony at a courts-martial Saturday at Camp Victory near Baghdad.

Both men pleaded guilty to the charges in an agreement with Army prosecutors and offered tearful apologies for the incident before they were sentenced.

Hadi helped interview Iraqis taken into custody by U.S. forces. Hooser said that he and Dajani were her close friends and that they had been playing around in the office where they all worked. She was laughing and joking, Dajani said.

“Somebody said something about shooting someone. We said we could just kill Luma,” Hooser testified in court.

Both men said Dajani reached into a locker where Hadi had stored a pistol she carried for her protection and handed it to Hooser without checking whether it was loaded. Hooser said he pointed the gun at Hadi and squeezed the trigger, also without checking it.

“I can never say ‘sorry’ enough,” Hooser said in court.

“I killed a friend in a split second of stupidity. I have no excuse.”

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