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Hearing delayed for Iraq contractor accused of stabbing Print
By Joseph Giordono, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, April 11, 2008

The Article 32 hearing for a contractor in Iraq accused of stabbing another contractor has been delayed due to a request by his defense attorney, officials said Thursday.

The charges in military court against the man — identified by the military as Alaa “Alex” Mohammed Ali — have drawn wide attention as a test of the military’s ability to try civilians working for it in a war zone. Ali is the first person to be charged under a 2006 amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and is accused of stabbing another contractor during a dispute at a base in western Iraq.

According to published accounts, both men worked for the U.S. military in the city of Hit, in Anbar province. Ali has been held in military confinement at Camp Victory since Feb. 29, officials have said.

The Article 32 — similar to a grand jury hearing in civilian courts — was to begin Thursday but has now been delayed.

“A new hearing date will be announced as soon as possible,” the military said in a statement released Thursday morning.

“Mr. Ali will be afforded all the same rights, protections and privileges servicemembers receive in military court, including the right to counsel, right to speedy trial, protection against self-incrimination and presumption of innocence,” the statement read.

After the hearing, the “convening authority” will weigh the evidence presented and make recommendations about any charges for a full court-martial to Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Multi-National Corps–Iraq.

The case represents the first time the U.S. military has prosecuted a contractor since the Vietnam War, the U.S. command said Saturday.

The stabbing took place on Feb. 23, officials have said. Ali has Canadian and Iraqi citizenship. He has military counsel but can add civilian lawyers if he chooses.

There are around 200,000 contractors working for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the military. Following a string of incidents largely involving security contractors, there have been calls for greater oversight of the contractors.
 
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