Massey testimony continues in spotlight, shadows Hinzman hearing

Ex-Marine testifies of killing Iraq civilians

TORONTO -- A former US Marine staff sergeant testified at a hearing yesterday that his unit killed at least 30 unarmed civilians in Iraq during the war in 2003 and that Marines routinely shot wounded Iraqis and killed them.

Jimmy J. Massey, a 12-year veteran, said he left Iraq in May 2003 after a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. He said he and his men shot and killed four Iraqis staging a demonstration and a man with his hands up trying to surrender, as well as women and children at roadblocks. Massey said he had complained to his superiors about the ''killing of innocent civilians," but that nothing was done.

Massey, 33, of Waynesville, N.C., was the chief witness at a refugee board hearing in the bid by a US Army deserter, Private First Class Jeremy Hinzman, to win asylum in Canada after he fled from Fort Bragg, N.C., rather than go to Iraq. Hinzman, 25, the first of at least three US military deserters to apply for asylum here, argues that he refused to go to avoid committing war crimes.

In Washington, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon said Massey's charges had been investigated and were unproved.

Massey is a former Marine recruiter who served in Iraq as the staff sergeant for a platoon that ranged from 25 to 50 men. He testified that the killings occurred in late March or early April 2003 as his unit, the weapons company of the Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, moved northward to and past Baghdad.

During one 48-hour period, Massey said under oath, his platoon set up roadblocks and killed ''30-plus" civilians. He said his men, fearing suicide bombers, poured massive firepower into cars that did not stop as they approached the roadblocks. In each instance, he said, none of the cars was found to have contained explosives or arms.

''Why didn't the Iraqis stop? That is something that has plagued me every waking moment of the day," he said. He said they may have been confused by the Americans' gestures or thought that a warning shot was celebratory gunfire.

The testimony of Massey, who was honorably discharged six months after his medical evacuation from Iraq, is the main surviving thrust of the strategy by Hinzman's attorney to put the Iraq war on trial at the refugee hearing. The asylum bids by Hinzman and two other servicemen are a dilemma for the Canadian government, which is seeking to repair relations with the Bush administration. Canada refused to join the US invasion of Iraq.

©2004 The New York Times The Boston Globe photo of James Massey file ©

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