Area Contractors Claim Marine Abuse In Iraq

By: AP
By: AP

The U.S. military won't charge the 16 American
security contractors who were held by Marines in Iraq for 72 hours
last summer after a shooting incident near Fallujah, a Navy
spokesman said Tuesday.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service recently closed its
criminal investigation of the case "for lack of prosecutive
merit," NCIS spokesman Ed Buice said.
"There is not enough to go forward to seek charges," he told
The Associated Press from Washington D.C.
The NCIS did not investigate claims by several contractors that
they were mistreated by Marine guards while detained at Camp
Fallujah, Buice said.
The security contractors were detained for three days in May
because they were suspected of firing on Iraqi civilian cars and
U.S. forces in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, the Marines said
at the time.
The security guards, who worked for Zapata Engineering based in
Charlotte, N.C., denied firing any shots.
"They are cleared as much as you're ever cleared," said Mark
Schopper, a Reno attorney representing four of the men. "Now they
can go on with their lives again."
Several of the men said they were heckled, humiliated and
physically abused by U.S. Marines who treated them like terrorists
while they were held at a facility with insurgents.
"It's just a world of relief," said Peter Ginter, an ex-Marine
who said he was kicked, his head bounced off the pavement and his
testicle squeezed by a guard during his detention in Iraq.
"It's like having the weight of the world taken off your
shoulders," he said by telephone from Colorado Springs, Colo.
"I'm just happy this whole ordeal is over. We knew we were
innocent and had been persecuted for something we didn't do," he
said.
Matt Raiche, another contractor who lives in Dayton, Nev., said
the Marines intimidated them with dogs, made them strip and told
them to wear towels over their heads when they went to the restroom
so insurgents in the facility would not recognize and harm them.
"It should never have ever happened. There should not have been
any investigation at all," Raiche said.
"We asked them what we were accused of and they would never say
a word to us. All we heard was some guards talking, saying we were
mercenaries," he said.
The Marines denied the men were abused while they were detained.
Maj. Gen. S.T. Johnson informed the contractors in a May 28,
2005, letter that they had been banned from all U.S. installations
in Iraq because their convoy was speeding through Fallujah and
"firing shots indiscriminately."
"Your actions endangered the lives of innocent Iraqis and U.S.
service members in the area," Johnson wrote.
Ginter, 30, and Raiche, 34, said they were out of work for more
than a month and since have been able to find jobs but not in
security.
"I've been trying to get a job to go back over there but
apparently we're still on the black list," Raiche said.
"A lot of companies, the first question they ask if you ever
worked for Zapata Engineering and once you say `Yeah,' they say,
`Sorry, we can't help you,"' he said.
Officials for Zapata did not immediately return a telephone call
seeking comment.
Buice said the NCIS conducted a "criminal investigation into
the shots being fired at the Marines" and did not focus on the
treatment of the contractors.
"No allegations of mistreatment were made to us at the time.
They've had some things to say about that since, but that is not
what our investigation focused on," he said.
Buice said the Marines Corps may consider the contractors'
future work status.
"I know some of the guys are unhappy about the administrative
decisions to bar them from Iraq. That is not something we deal
with," he said.
Schopper, who also represents two Tennessee men who were
detained, Richard Blanchard and Frank Jochinsen, a retired Green
Beret, said he's investigating whether the men have been
"blacklisted."
"If that is the case, it is clearly illegal," he said. He said
the NCIS told him he would need to file a request under the Freedom
of Information Act to see a redacted copy of the investigative
report.
He also said the men want the Marines to return their weapons
and confiscated equipment, worth as much as $1,200 per man.


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