- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — An Iraqi civilian testified yesterday that he and his cousin were forced at gunpoint into the murky Tigris River and that U.S. soldiers laughed while the two struggled against the current.

Marwan Fadel Hassoun, 23, said he struggled to shore and tried to save his 19-year-old cousin by grabbing his hand, but the powerful waters swept Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun to his death.

“He was calling my name, said, ‘Help me. Help me,’” Mr. Hassoun testified through an interpreter on the second day of the military trial for Army Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins, 33.

Sgt. Perkins is charged with involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, aggravated assault, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators. He and Army 1st Lt. Jack Saville, 24, could receive up to 29 years in prison if convicted.

The defense denies that Zaidoun Hassoun died in the river. Lt. Saville’s trial was postponed until March after a judge ordered the victim’s body to be exhumed for an autopsy and identification.

Mr. Hassoun testified that he and his cousin had driven into Samarra with plumbing supplies in January 2004 and were stopped at 10:45 p.m., 15 minutes before curfew, after their truck broke down.

He said the soldiers were pushing his cousin, who clung to them before eventually falling into the cold water.

“They had the rifles aimed toward us, but they thought that we were dying,” Mr. Hassoun testified.

Under questioning by the six-member jury of Army officers, he said the soldiers did not fire their weapons.

Military prosecutors rested their case shortly after Mr. Hassoun’s testimony. The defense began putting on its case late yesterday.

Platoon members testified that they never meant to cause harm and said the two men were stopped because they were out after curfew and had plumbing equipment that could be used to make bombs.

“We thought he was going to be all right, so we left,” Spc. Reggie Martinez said.

Zaidoun Hassoun’s family said they found his body 12 days later, but defense attorneys contend that he reached the shore safely. Sgt. Irene Cintron, an Army investigator, testified Tuesday that she could not confirm whether the corpse shown in a video provided by the family was Zaidoun Hassoun’s.

The two soldiers are part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colo., which is part of the 4th Infantry Division based at Fort Hood.

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