US sniper shot unarmed man

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A sniper in the US Army has been found guilty of killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian and planting evidence on his body. Jurors deliberated for three hours yesterday before finding Sgt Evan Vela guilty of murder without premeditation.

He had previously been charged with premeditated murder but that charge was changed during his court martial in Baghdad.

Vela, who was also found guilty of making a false official statement, faces a possible sentence of life in prison. The soldier showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Two of his lawyers leaned over and gave him a hug, before leading him out of the court on a US military base in Baghdad.

Defence lawyers had claimed the killing, on 11 May, of Genei Nasir al-Janabi was an accident, brought on by extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation Vela and his fellow snipers experienced. But military prosecutors called it a simple case of murder.

The sergeant, from St Anthony, Idaho, wept as he described shooting the Iraqi after the man had stumbled on the snipers' hiding place near Iskandariyah.

Vela and his team had hiked through rough terrain and slept less than five hours in the 72 hours leading up to the killing, the defence said. Mr Janabi was killed because he could give away the snipers'presence, it was later claimed.