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Marine who vanished in Iraq is jailed

Updated: 2015-02-25 07:29
By Associated Press in Raleigh, North Carolina (China Daily)

A US marine who vanished a decade ago in Iraq was sentenced on Monday to two years in prison for leaving his post there and then fleeing to Lebanon after a brief return to the United States.

The judge at Camp Lejeune, Marine Major Nicholas Martz, ruled that Corporal Wassef Hassoun was guilty of deserting when he disappeared in 2004 and 2005. Hassoun was also convicted of causing the loss of his service pistol.

The corporal will get credit for the eight months he spent in pretrial confinement. Hassoun will also have his rank reduced, lose his pay and receive a dishonorable discharge as part of the sentence.

Had Hassoun been convicted of all charges and specifications, he could have been sentenced to 27 years in jail.

Hassoun went missing from a base in Fallujah in June 2004. Days later, he appeared blindfolded and with a sword held above his head in an image purportedly taken by insurgents. An extremist group claimed to be holding him captive.

But Hassoun soon turned up unharmed at the US embassy in Beirut, saying he'd been kidnapped. Officials were suspicious, and he was returned to Camp Lejeune in 2004 while the military considered charging him. Hassoun disappeared a second time in early 2005. He traveled to Lebanon but was detained by that country's authorities after Interpol issued a bulletin related to his deserter status, defense attorney Haytham Faraj said. The defense said court proceedings in Lebanon lasted until 2013.

Hassoun turned himself in to US authorities after the government there lifted travel restrictions.

Prosecutors argued that Hassoun made preparations to flee his base in Fallujah in 2004 and told others that he planned to leave. They displayed quotes attributed to Hassoun: "I'll leave and go to Lebanon. I'm not kidding."

They said he was unhappy with how US servicemen treated Iraqis during interrogations and that he was upset at being apart from his wife.

Faraj said the case against the Muslim serviceman began with "a rush to judgment that's worthy of a novel".


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