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Headlines Military Loses Key Evidence in Iraqi Death


Seeker of Truth
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - The military has lost key evidence in its investigation into the death of an Iraqi man beaten by Marine prison guards, throwing into doubt the status of a court-martial of one of the guards.

The missing evidence includes bones taken from the throat and chest of Nagem Hatab, attorneys said Thursday at a hearing for Maj. Clarke Paulus.

Hatab, 52, died last year at a makeshift camp in Iraq (news - web sites) that was run by Marines. He had been rumored to be an official of Saddam Hussein's Baath party and part of the ambush of a U.S. Army convoy that killed 11 soldiers and led to the capture of Pfc. Jessica Lynch and five others.

Paulus' court-martial, scheduled to start Monday, was delayed at least a week while the judge presiding over the case ordered prosecutors to try to find the missing bones.

"I'm looking at some extreme measures to make things right," said the judge, Col. Robert Chester. He did not elaborate.

He also called the missing evidence "serious problems that are interfering with a fair and just resolution in his case."

The missing bones are just one of several errors in the investigation that came to light at Thursday's hearing.

Hatab's organs, which were removed during autopsy, were subsequently destroyed when they were left for hours in the blazing heat on an Iraqi airstrip. A summary of an interrogation the Marines conducted with Hatab shortly before his death at the camp also is missing, as is a photo of Hatab that was taken during questioning.

Paulus' civilian defense attorney, Keith Higgins, asked the judge to delay his client's trial until the bones taken from Hatab's body can be located.

"This looks bad for our system, for our military justice system, and it's specifically bad for this accused," Higgins said.

First Bush's military records, and now THIS? It's "quite" a mystery...