CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – An Iraqi inmate who died at a U.S. detention camp was an "ornery prisoner" who was beaten by several Marines, including one on trial for allegedly kicking him in the chest, one of the camp's jailers testified.
Pfc. William Roy (search) testified Wednesday that he and defendant Sgt. Gary Pittman (search) believed the 52-year-old inmate, Nagem Hatab (search), had sold a rifle taken during the ambush of a U.S. Army convoy that left 11 soldiers dead and led to the capture of Pfc. Jessica Lynch (search ) and five others.
Hatab was a "pretty ornery prisoner," Roy testified, adding he believed reasonable and necessary force was used to subdue him after he resisted commands and at one point got out of his flexible handcuffs.
Hatab is among 37 Iraqi and Afghan prisoners whose deaths are under investigation. He died two days after his June 3, 2003, arrival at the U.S.-run Camp Whitehorse (search ) in Iraq. An autopsy found he had seven broken ribs and apparently suffocated after his windpipe was crushed.
Pittman could be sentenced to two years in a military prison if convicted of assault and dereliction of duty. Roy was demoted from the rank of lance corporal as part of a plea deal in which he agreed to testify. He is the prosecution's star witness and the only Marine to say he saw Pittman attack Hatab. He was to return to the witness stand Thursday.
The defense says Pittman was too sick at the time Hatab was injured to have harmed him and that another Marine may have caused his injuries.
Roy testified Wednesday that Pittman struck Hatab in the chest a day after the inmate arrived at Camp Whitehorse. Hatab fell to the ground, asked in English "Why? Why? Why?" and told the guards he had 11 children.
Roy said he replied: "What about those people who were in the ambush you got this rifle from? What about their children?"
Pittman, he said, then delivered a strong kick to the man's chest, sending him to the ground. Roy said he then suggested they both leave before further harming Hatab.
Pressed by the defense about exactly how Pittman delivered the kick, Roy said he saw the Marine hit Hatab with the side of his foot, but didn't see the stance Pittman had taken before delivering the blow.
"He had a boot on that made contact with the man's chest and he went backwards," he said.
Roy also testified that he saw other Marines strike Hatab, including a corpsman who hit him in the arms, ribs, lower belly and chest.
He said he was angered at Hatab for his possible role in the ambush on the Army convoy.
"I was angry. ... This guy was more than likely involved in the deaths of these people," he said. "We were angry about being there. We were angry about a lot of things."
Hatab was not the only prisoner he and Pittman attacked, Roy testified.
He said they also kneed another prisoner and a third guard struck him following a strip search.
The attack on that man, identified only as a sheik, was "retribution" for a skirmish that occurred between U.S. troops and the sheik's supporters when he was taken into custody, Roy said. The idea, he added, was "to put some pain on him."
"At that time I felt it was what was expected of us," he said.
Other witnesses have described a chaotic atmosphere at Camp Whitehorse, a makeshift lockup outside Nasiriyah that largely was run by Marine reservists from New York. The camp later was closed.