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Friday, May 22, 2009

Spain judge reinstates charges against US soldiers for journalist's death in Iraq
Ingrid Burke at 12:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Spanish National Court Judge Santiago Pedraz Gomez [JURIST news archive] reinstated charges [indictment, PDF, in Spanish] Thursday against three US soldiers for their involvement in the death of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso [advocacy website, in Spanish], which occurred when the soldiers opened fire on a Baghdad hotel frequented by Western journalists in 2003, allegedly without provocation. The homicide charges initially filed against Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp [Trial Watch profiles] were dropped in 2007 due to a lack of evidence sufficient to prove that shots taken by the soldiers were unprovoked. According to Gomez, the testimony of three journalists provided evidence sufficient to support the initial homicide allegations. Gomez emphasized the journalists' assertion that the morning on which the attack occurred had been relatively calm and that prior to the US soldiers' attack on the hotel, there had been 45 minutes without any such disturbances. Testimony detailing the morning's calmness, evidenced by the fact that Couso was standing at the hotel's window when he was killed, stands in direct contrast to the US soldiers' previously claimed justification of self defense.

Gomez initiated investigations [JURIST report] into the incident in June 2005. In October of that year, he ordered [text, in Spanish; JURIST report] the soldiers' arrest. The order was reversed by a panel of judges for the National Court in 2006. This reversal was then overturned by Spain's Supreme Court, resulting in arrest warrants being reissued [JURIST report] in January 2007. The soldiers were indicted [JURIST report] in April of that year, but charges were soon dropped due to a lack of evidence.






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