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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S. Marine officer accused of destroying evidence in the 2005 killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha was arraigned on Wednesday by a military judge who set his court martial for May.
First Lt. Andrew Grayson was ordered to face court martial on May 28 on charges under the military legal code of making false official statements, obstruction of justice and attempting to fraudulently separate from the Marines.
Grayson was not at the scene when two dozen unarmed Iraqi men, women and children were shot to death by Marines at Haditha on November 19, 2005 but is accused of ordering a subordinate to destroy some 70 photographs of the bodies.
The intelligence officer from Springboro, Ohio, is also charged with attempting to fraudulently separate from the Marines by seeking a discharge while the legal proceedings were still pending against him.
He did not enter a plea during the brief arraignment hearing with his attorneys and military prosecutors at the Camp Pendleton Marine base in Southern California.
Grayson is one of eight U.S. Marines originally charged in the Haditha case, which along with a number of other incidents has triggered international condemnation of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Iraqi witnesses say infuriated Marines massacred unarmed civilians after a popular comrade, Lance Cpl. Miguel "T.J." Terrazas, was ripped apart by a roadside bomb that exploded under their convoy.
Defense attorneys say the civilians died in a pitched battle with insurgents in and around Haditha following the roadside bombing.
Prosecutors have dropped charges against four of the eight Marines originally charged in the case.
The accused ringleader, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, is scheduled to face court martial in March and two other Marines still face legal proceedings.