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SEOUL — The trial of an Army soldier accused of attempted murder kicked off Wednesday afternoon in a Seoul court room, with the soldier maintaining his innocence in the case.

Pfc. John C. Humphreys, 21, is accused of stabbing a South Korean man during an early-morning dispute in May. At his Aug. 20 arraignment in Seoul District Court, Humphreys characterized the incident as self-defense.

According to Seoul prosecutors, witnesses will testify during the trial that Humphreys and a group of other soldiers were drinking and causing a public disturbance early the morning of May 15. When a 27-year-old South Korean civilian, identified only by his family name Park, approached the soldiers to quiet them, police said, a scuffle broke out.

No information was available late Wednesday as to how long the trial was expected to last or what punishment Humphreys could face if convicted.

Humphreys, of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, was arrested that morning and turned over to the control of his unit while an investigation was conducted.

Last month, Humphreys became just the second U.S. soldier handed over to South Korea officials for pre-trial confinement. Under 2001 revisions to the U.S.-South Korean Status of Forces Agreement, U.S. soldiers now can be held before a trial if charged with any of a dozen serious crimes.

Attempted murder is one of those charges.

After the stabbing, 8th Army officials expressed regret for the incident and promised full cooperation in the investigation. Police officials said four other U.S. soldiers and a South Korean soldier assigned to a U.S. Army unit also were investigated in the case. No further charges were filed.

U.S. military officials declined to say whether the other soldiers received nonjudicial punishments.

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