U.S. military orders court-martial for Iraq contractor

May 11, 2008 6:16:01 PM PDT
The U.S. military on Sunday ordered a court-martial for a civilian contractor charged with aggravated assault while working as an Army translator in Iraq - the first such military prosecution since the Vietnam War. Alaa "Alex" Mohammad Ali, who holds dual Iraqi-Canadian citizenship, is accused of stabbing another contractor four times during a fight Feb. 23 on a base near Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad. The victim suffered chest wounds.

In 2006, Congress gave the military authority to prosecute crimes allegedly committed by civilians working for the armed forces.

Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, referred the case, the military said in a statement.

"This is the first time a civilian will be tried by court-martial" under the 2006 amendment, it said.

Sunday's statement said Ali "is being afforded all the same rights, protections and privileges service members receive in military court, including the right to counsel, right to speedy trial, protection against self-incrimination and presumption of innocence."

Ali was being represented by military defense counsel, it added.

During the war in Vietnam, several civilians working for the U.S. armed forces were charged with violations of military law. Although there were several convictions, they eventually were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.