August 4, 2006

US Marine accused in Haditha may expand libel suit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Marine suspected in the
killing of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, threatened to sue a
second congressman on Friday for comments the Republican made
about the case, according to a letter obtained by Reuters.

A lawyer for Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who already filed
suit against a prominent Democratic lawmaker and war critic,
Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, told Rep. John Kline of
Minnesota he too would be sued for libel if he did not

The attorney, Mark Zaid, also wrote to Murtha, offering to
settle the case if the congressman would apologize for accusing
the Marines suspected in the case of being "cold-blooded"
killers, among other things.

"Regardless of what some may think, this lawsuit has
nothing to do with partisan politics," Zaid wrote to Murtha.
"We are only interested in protecting the reputation of SSgt
Wuterich and his fellow Marines."

A spokesmen for Kline was not immediately available.
Murtha's spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

According to Zaid, Kline also commented publicly about the
case, saying Marines were involved in the Haditha shooting and
a cover-up of the facts.

Wuterich is among a group of Marines that is suspected but
has not been charged in the killing of two dozen unarmed
civilians in Haditha last November. That case, which angered
the Iraqi government, is one of a series in which U.S.
servicemen are suspected of killing Iraqi civilians.

Murtha, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has commented
extensively about Haditha and many of those comments were
recounted in the lawsuit. He said during a news conference in
May, "Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them
and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood."

The U.S. military has investigated the killings but not yet
released the results of its probe.