Death of cameraman in Iraq sparks legal fight

18th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

18 May 2007 , MADRID - Prosecutors appealed on Friday an indictment against three U.S. soldiers in the death of a Spanish journalist covering the Iraq war, arguing the tank shell blast that killed him was not a crime, a court official said.

18 May 2007

MADRID - Prosecutors appealed on Friday an indictment against three U.S. soldiers in the death of a Spanish journalist covering the Iraq war, arguing the tank shell blast that killed him was not a crime, a court official said.

Prosecutors at the National Court challenged the charges handed down April in the death of TV cameraman Jose Couso, who died in Baghdad in 2003 when an American army tank fired at a hotel where foreign correspondents were staying.

Under Spanish law, a crime committed against a Spaniard abroad can be prosecuted here if it is not investigated in the country where it was allegedly committed.

Investigating magistrate Santiago Pedraz charged the three soldiers with homicide and "a crime against the international community" _ defined under Spanish law as an indiscriminate or excessive attack against civilians during war.

Pedraz asked American authorities to notify the three Americans _ Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp, all from the U.S. 3rd Infantry, based in Fort Stewart, Georgia _ of the indictment.

But the prosecutors said Friday the attack did not amount to a crime, but rather an accident of war, said a court official who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

The next step is for Pedraz himself to decide whether he accepts or rejects the appeal.

In Spain it is investigative magistrates like Pedraz _ not prosecutors _ who file charges against people suspected of committing a crime.

Besides Couso, who worked as a cameraman for the Spanish television network Telecinco, Taras Portsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters, was also killed in the attack.

Following the incident, then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said American troops opened fire after drawing hostile fire from the hotel. He said a U.S. review of the incident found the use of force was justified.

Pedraz has issued several arrests warrants against the three soldiers, but the United States has made clear it will not hand them over.

The soldiers still run the risk of arrest under a Spanish-issued international warrant should they travel to any country that has an extradition accord with Spain.

[Copyright AP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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