Fort Campbell, KY. (AP) -- Military prosecutors say Staff Sergeant Ray Girouard told soldiers in his squad to set three Iraqi captives free, kill them and then cover up the crime.
But the 24-year-old squad leader from Sweetwater, Tennessee, denies giving such an order and has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.
His trial is to start today at Fort Campbell.
Girouard is the last and most senior soldier from the 101st Airborne Division to face trial for the killings during a raid on a suspected insurgent camp outside of Samarra, Iraq.
Two other soldiers charged with murder in the incident pleaded guilty, cooperated with prosecutors and got reduced prison terms. During their trials, both men said Girouard ordered the killings.
Girouard's family and friends in Sweetwater have rallied around him, saying the allegations don't make sense for a highly trained Army Ranger who had just begun a promising military career.
He could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.