By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 2, 2007 - Three Iraqi snipers were convicted and sentenced to death last week after confessing to the deaths of at least two coalition soldiers and the shootings of nine others, a senior law official in the region said today. Army Col. Mark S. Martins, staff judge advocate with Multinational Force Iraq, said the conviction is part of "small, measured steps" that the Iraqi government is making to establish confidence in Iraqi law. Martins spoke from Iraq via a phone conference with online reporters and "bloggers."
Convicted in Iraq's central criminal court July 22 were Jasim Husayn Nabeer and Muhammed Sabeh Latif. Mustafa Hussayn was convicted July 25. The three were self-proclaimed members of Jaysh al-Islami, or the Army of Islam, and confessed to acting as a sniper cell for the group. Nabeer confessed to eight sniper shootings recorded on a recovered terrorist propaganda video.
Nabeer and Latif were convicted of the shootings, and Hussayn was convicted of driving the sniper car. A panel of three investigative judges presided over the case, Martins said.
The three were arrested by 6th Iraqi Army Division troops in October after a two-month shooting spree primarily in the Baghdad neighborhoods of Ameriyah and Azamiah. They were captured while driving a van they had modified for sniper missions. Forces recovered two sniper rifles, a silencer, ammo, hand grenades and money.
The van had a hidden compartment to stash the weapons, as well as a porthole in the rear of the van that allowed the shooters to fire from a concealed position. A video camera and a mount were also recovered. The camera contained a recording of a recent sniper operation by the three, Martins said.
While the rule of law is not yet prevailing in Iraq, such trials are evidence that the government is making progress under the latest troop surge effort, Martins said.
"The trial that was concluded is an important component to the progress Iraq is making in restoring confidence in the rule of law. It's a small step. Small measured steps are being taken, holding individuals accountable in courts under the law, following the evidence where it leads," he said.
"As the surge of operations targets extremists and expands into former terrorist safe havens, Iraqi law enforcement and the central criminal court of Iraq are investigating and prosecuting accused terrorists and criminals," he added. "There are some dramatic developments happening in Iraq in the rule of law."