EXCLUSIVE: Iraqi judge releasing U.S. contractors

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EXCLUSIVE:

Three Americans arrested in connection with the killing of a contractor in Baghdad’s Green Zone are being released Wednesday, said their attorney Timothy M. Haake.

The men are Donald Feeney Jr., 55; son Donald “Buddy” Feeney III, 31; and Mark Bridges, an employee of the Feeneys’ Corporate Training Unlimited security firm.

The case is the first under a 2008 agreement in which U.S. contractors are subject to criminal law in Iraq.

Two other men are being held but also are expected to be released. They have been identified as Micah Milligan, a Corporate Training Unlimited employee, and Jason Jones, employed by another security firm working in Baghdad.

Mr. Haake said no charges have been or were filed against any of the five.

“Hopefully, they will be out in four days as well,” said Mr. Haake, a retired special forces general.

The State Department has yet to return a call to confirm the releases.

The men were arrested June 3 by Iraqi security forces following a joint investigation with U.S. officials. The forces raided the home in which the men were staying, reportedly to find the killer, and arrested the five Americans on weapons violations.

“We really don’t know why they were arrested yet,” Mr. Haake said. “There were a lot of weapons in there. There were concerns about whether some of the weapons were properly registered or the registrations had expired.”

Mr. Haake said the release of the men could be delayed because their passports cannot be found in the ransacked house, but the process has so far worked well, the Americans are being treated fairly and are eager to return to work in Baghdad.

The contractor has been identified as Jim Kitterman, 60, of Houston. He was found dead May 22 inside the Green Zone with his throat cut and multiple stab wounds to his body.

A source says Mr. Kitterman was last seen alive arguing with a security guard because he wanted to leave a secured compound. He eventually was allowed to leave, then later found dead.

The agreement under which U.S. contractors can be arrested and tried by the Iraq government follows a Sept. 2007 incident in which employees of the Blackwater security company fatally shot 17 Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. Company employees were escorting a convoy of State Department vehicles.

Five of the contract employees face charges in a U.S. court of manslaughter and using a firearm in a violent crime.

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