Soldier accused of killing unarmed teens in Iraq

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (AP) – A U.S. soldier accused of deliberately killing two unarmed teenagers as they herded cattle in Iraq seven years ago is appearing in military court, with his lawyer claiming the charges are baseless.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Barbera has been charged with premeditated murder and faces a mandatory life sentence. A preliminary hearing opened Wednesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

An Army prosecutor told an investigating officer the killings were unjustified. He noted that the charges were brought after a 2012 investigation by The Tribune-Review of Pittsburgh, which found that soldiers who served with Barbera had reported the slayings and remained troubled that he hadn’t been prosecuted.

Barbera’s civilian lawyer, David Coombs, noted that no soldier immediately reported the shootings and argued that the newspaper didn’t critically examine other soldiers’ claims.

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