Soldiers’ lawyer
seeking isle trial

The attorney wants immunity
granted to the interrogator of
a Taliban prisoner

The Hawaii defense attorney for two Schofield Barracks soldiers accused of torturing and beating a Taliban prisoner wants the Army to convene their court-martial in the islands after the soldiers return next month from Afghanistan.

Eric Seitz, who represented Sgt. Joseph Simpliciano and Staff Sgt. Marcus Edwards at Army hearings late last month in Kandahar, said he also wants the lieutenant who conducted the interrogation of the Taliban prisoner to be granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.

Seitz said he believes the lieutenant would deny any of the charges against his clients of the alleged beating and torturing that occurred Nov. 2 near Forward Operating Base Cobra. He said he believes the lieutenant is hesitant to make a statement since he might be under investigation for not following proper procedures in the incident.

Seitz has until the middle of this month to file his motion for immunity. But he said he is concerned that the Army will reject it and move to hold a court-martial in Afghanistan. Seitz said he would have a hard time getting to Afghanistan in time for the proceeding.

An 25th Division spokeswoman in Afghanistan said the Army "will follow proper military law regulations in determining the final disposition of this case."

Seitz represented Edwards at his Feb. 25 Article 32 hearing, and Simpliciano, 28, two days later. An Article 32 hearing is the military's equivalent of a preliminary hearing in civilian criminal court.

He said the Army's entire case is based on statements by the victim, who has given conflicting accounts.

The decision whether to court-martial Simpliciano, a 1993 Waianae High School graduate, and Edwards will be made by Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, commander of the 25th Infantry Division.

Both Simpliciano and Edwards are members of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry, and part of Task Force Bronco.

Simpliciano is charged with draping a rope around the neck of Gul Mohamed-Nurzi, an Afghan contractor, and placing a knee on the suspect's back "to hold him stiff." The Army alleges that Edwards then beat Mohamed-Nurzi for 15 minutes to get information from him.

Seitz said his clients deny all the charges and that Simpliciano was not in the tent when the alleged beating occurred.

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