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U.S. Army Charges 2 in S. Korea Accident

July 06, 2002|From Associated Press

SEOUL — Two American soldiers have been charged with negligent homicide for hitting two South Korean girls with their armored vehicle, the U.S. military said, reversing an earlier decision not to prosecute the men.

The deaths had touched off near-daily anti-U.S. protests. South Korean activists demanded an apology and a South Korean trial of the two soldiers.

Sgts. Mark Walker and Fernando Nino, both from the Army's 2nd Infantry Division, north of Seoul, were accused of violating the Pentagon's Uniform Code of Military Justice, the U.S. military said in a press release.

The men's armored bridge carrier hit the 14-year-old girls as they were walking along a road June 13 in Yangju, near the border with North Korea. The vehicle was taking part in a training mission.

The move was a reversal of an earlier U.S. decision not to court-martial the two soldiers. Under an international agreement, South Korea cannot punish U.S. soldiers involved in accidents while on duty.

There was no clear explanation about the change in the U.S. position. Lee Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military command, said only that "the charge came after the internal U.S. Army investigation."

The trial is expected to take place at a U.S. military court in South Korea, Ferguson said. If convicted, the soldiers face up to six years in prison.

On Thursday, 400 people protested in front of the 2nd Infantry Division headquarters, clamoring for an end to the U.S. military presence in South Korea. On Friday, a dozen activists staged a similar protest in front of the U.S. military command in Seoul.

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