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SEOUL — Three soldiers defended themselves Friday against assault charges stemming from an Itaewon nightclub brawl.

On trial in Seoul Central District Court, Pvt. Sylvester Antley Clark, 19, and Spc. Tydes Teron Whiten, 27, were charged with assaulting a bouncer. Pfc. Mario Duprey, 22, has been charged with assaulting a police officer.

Prosecutors and police say that on Nov. 11, Clark and Whiten assaulted a bouncer at the U.N. Club with beer bottles before being stopped by military police.

Prosecutors cited Duprey for punching a South Korean police officer while he attempted to check on his fellow soldiers.

But Duprey said he was acting in self-defense after being threatened by the policeman.

Clark admitted to assaulting the club bouncer, but said he acted alone and used only his fists. He punched the bouncer because the bouncer assaulted Whiten and knocked him unconscious, he said. “You take care of each other; that’s how it’s supposed to be,” Clark said. “That’s how we’re taught and trained.”

Duprey says he was dancing in the club when a man pulled a knife on him. Duprey yelled out about the knife and left the club.

Soon after, fighting broke out and beer bottles began flying, the soldiers said. Whiten tried to move out of the way when a blunt object smacked him in the head and rendered him unconscious, he said. “The next thing I remember, I wake up outside of the U.N. Club and I’m getting handcuffed,” Whiten said. “I blacked out again and woke up in the police department.” Whiten said he drank two or three beers that night.

South Korean police reported that Whiten took part in the assault on the bouncer, which he denied.

Duprey was ready to leave the scene in a cab when he saw the other two soldiers in police custody. “I went to see exactly what the situation was to look out for my fellow comrades,” Duprey said.

Duprey went to the police box and asked Clark if he was OK, then left. He came back five minutes later while drinking a beer to check on Clark.

That time, Duprey says the policeman shoved him out the door. The policeman then appeared as if he was about to strike, Duprey said.

In response, Duprey went into a tae kwon do fighting stance and struck the policeman, according to testimony. Six or seven policemen then descended on him, punching him and striking him with batons, Duprey said.

Itaewon police declined to speak to Stars and Stripes officially about Duprey. However, one officer said on condition of anonymity that Duprey was protesting heavily and was stumbling around when he was “escorted out of the building.” Police subdued Duprey after he threatened them, they said.

Duprey defense lawyer Jin Hyo-guen said he will report the case to the National Human Rights of Commission of Korea

“My client was beaten up unfairly by the police officials, though the police are in denial of the facts,” Jin said.

Duprey, who is 6-feet 5-inches tall and had been drinking heavily that night, said outside court Friday that the policemen were probably intimidated by his size.

Duprey was sent to the 121st Combat Support Hospital and treated for multiple wounds to the face and head — treatment tthat included stitches and staples.

“The U.N. club should be banned,” said Duprey about the club, a favorite among young soldiers that regularly appears on the weekend military police blotter.

Duprey also contended that the curfew confining U.S. Forces Korea servicemembers to quarters by 1 a.m. on weekends is actually making alcohol-related incidents worse because soldiers tend to drink much more quickly.

Clark and Whiten have paid the bouncer about $700 each in settlements. Financial settlements are considered normal in South Korea and often lessen sentences.

Duprey said he tried to settle financially with two policemen but they declined due to police regulations — so instead, he bought them doughnuts.

The next phase of the trial is scheduled for Feb. 23 at 2 p.m.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

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