Now Spain quashes warrants against US soldiers

21st October 2005, Comments 0 comments

21 October 2005, MADRID — A Spanish state attorney has quashed international warrants for the arrest of three U.S. Army soldiers implicated in the death of a Spanish journalist in Iraq in 2003.

21 October 2005

MADRID — A Spanish state attorney has quashed international warrants for the arrest of three U.S. Army soldiers implicated in the death of a Spanish journalist in Iraq in 2003.

A magistrate of Spain's National Court issued the warrants on  Wednesday for a U.S. lieutenant colonel, a captain and a sergeant who played a role in the tank fire that killed Jose Couso, a cameraman for Spain's Telecinco channel, in Baghdad's Palestine Hotel in April, 2003.

A Reuters photographer was also killed by the explosion of the round fired from a US Army tank.

Pedro Rubira, the state attorney, presented mostly technical arguments in seeking to annul the warrants, saying they could not be issued without a prior ruling that the case merited prosecution.

Such a ruling had not been made by the court.

The government challenge said that, if the court had examined the merits of the case, it also would have had to examine whether or not it could claim jurisdiction, something the state attorney contends it does not have.

Meanwhile, interior minister Jose Antonio Alonso said Spanish authorities would not transmit the arrest warrants to Interpol until Thursday's challenge to them is resolved.

But Alonso also said that decisions by the judiciary, once appeals are exhausted, "must be respected".

He said both the issuing of the warrants by National Court Judge Santiago Pedraz and the challenge to them by the state attorney "are part of the normal working of the institutions of a country under the rule of law and a judiciary in our country that, as is known, is independent".

The minister of the Socialist government, which irked Washington by pulling Spanish troops out of Iraq shortly after taking office in early 2004, also expressed his "absolute solidarity" with the family of Couso.

"The death of this journalist was something really tremendous," he said.

Trinidad Jimenez, secretary for foreign relations of the Socialist Party, said the arrest warrants should not further strain U.S.-Madrid relations.

"It is good news, the idea that any matter, crime or issue that must be dealt with on the international level not go unpunished. What matters is the idea that impunity comes to an end, and development of the concept of global justice," the secretary said.

The Couso family's attorney, Pilar Hermoso, celebrated the judge's ruling as "historic".

Even so, she acknowledged that there is no chance that Washington would voluntarily make the men available for prosecution here, and that the three soldiers will not be subject to arrest unless they leave the United States.

Javier Couso, brother of the dead cameraman, told EFE his family is "absolutely happy" about the arrest warrants.

Pedraz said he issued the warrants because they were "the only effective means of assuring the presence of those implicated before Spain's judicial authority, in light of the total absence of judicial cooperation by U.S. authorities in efforts to clear up what happened".

The judge noted that he had already twice requested assistance from the United States under the terms of existing bilateral accords, asking in April 2004 for specific documents and in June of this year for testimony from the three soldiers.

On the second occasion, the judge suggested that if Washington were unwilling to allow the soldiers to testify in Madrid, it could agree to "the dispatch of a Spanish judicial panel to United States territory for the taking of those statements".

"To date," Pedraz said in his ruling Wednesday, "I have received no response from the relevant authority about compliance with both requests for help."

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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