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Court decision delayed on Marine's Iraq vanishing

•  National News     updated  2014/08/27 12:22


A defense attorney said Thursday that a Marine accused of deserting his unit a decade ago in Iraq was kept in Lebanon for eight years while he faced a military trial there.

The Marine officer presiding over the hearing for Cpl. Wassef Hassoun adjourned the proceeding for at least a week to allow defense attorneys to translate Lebanese documents they say support his case.

The hearing officer, Lt. Col. Scott W. Martin, will eventually recommend whether Hassoun should face a military trial on charges including desertion as part of the Article 32 process, the military equivalent of a grand jury. A Marine general will have the final say on whether to try Hassoun.

Martin has given the defense at least until Aug. 27 to translate the documents, and no new court date has been set.

Defense attorney Haytham Faraj says Hassoun, 34, was kept in Lebanon for years for court proceedings triggered by U.S. accusations that he had deserted. Faraj said documents show Hassoun was tried and convicted by a Lebanese military court on charges that mirror the U.S. desertion charges. He said the Lebanese government tried Hassoun at the behest of the U.S. but did not elaborate.

Military prosecutors say Hassoun's whereabouts were unknown for years until he contacted U.S. officials in 2013. Faraj said that as soon as the court proceedings in Lebanon ended, Hassoun contacted U.S. officials saying: "I need to get back to the U.S. The Lebanese have been holding me."

The case began in June of 2004 when Hassoun disappeared from a base in Fallujah in western Iraq. About a week later, he appeared in a photo purportedly taken by insurgents. Hassoun was blindfolded and had a sword poised above his head.
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