CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina (Reuters) - A Marine accused of urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters and then posing for photographs, a scene captured in a widely circulated video on the Internet, is due to be tried by court martial on Wednesday at a North Carolina military base.
Staff Sergeant Edward W. Deptola is among a group of Marines to face disciplinary action after the video, posted on YouTube and other websites in January 2012, showed four U.S. servicemen in camouflage combat uniforms urinating on several corpses.
One of them said, “Have a nice day, buddy,” during the footage, and another Marine made a lewd joke.
Military officials said the actions depicted in the video occurred during a counter-insurgency operation in the vicinity of Sandala, Musa Qala District in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in July 2011.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other military leaders denounced the Marines’ behavior, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the video. Officials worried the video would stir up already strong anti-U.S. sentiment in Afghanistan after a decade of a war that had seen past cases of abuse.
Deptola is due to appear on Wednesday afternoon for a military trial at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where he is assigned to the Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment.
He is charged with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice on allegations that he desecrated human casualties and posed for unofficial photographs with the bodies.
Other charges against him include failing to properly supervise junior Marines, wrongfully and indiscriminately firing a recovered enemy machine gun and failing to stop the unnecessary damaging of Afghan compounds.
A fellow Marine, Staff Sergeant Joseph W. Chamblin, pleaded guilty in December to urinating on a dead Taliban fighter’s body and posing for photos. A military judge ordered 30 days in jail, a fine, forfeited pay and a reduction in rank.
Three other Marines pleaded guilty and were punished last August for their role in the video incident as part of a non-judicial military proceeding, according to the Marine Corps. Their names and specific punishments were not disclosed.
Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Andrew Hay