Spain drops death charges against US soldiers

10th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

10 March 2006, MADRID — Spain's National Court has dropped charges against three US military men in connection with the 2003 killing of a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad.

10 March 2006

MADRID — Spain's National Court has dropped charges against three US military men in connection with the 2003 killing of a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad.

"There was no crime, rather an act of war against a mistakenly identified enemy," said the court in the ruling made public on Friday.

The same court last October had upheld warrants for the arrest on murder charges of two US Army officers and a sergeant in the killing of Jose Couso in April, 2003 during the chaotic days when US forces were taking control of the Iraqi capital.

Couso, who worked for Spain's Tele 5 network, was killed while filming from a balcony of the Palestine Hotel in the Iraqi capital.

A colleague from Reuters, Ukrainian photographer Taras Protsyuk, also died from the explosion of the round fired by a US Army tank.

Last year, National Court Judge Santiago Pedraz said "there is sufficient reason to believe they are responsible" for the murder of the men and for the additional offence of "crimes against the international community".

The three accused men never were in Spanish custody.

The charges carried possible jail sentences of 10 to 20 years.

Judiciary sources said Pedraz would formally "archive" the case on Friday, "in accordance with the criteria of his hierarchical superiors".

Last month, U.S. authorities refused Pedraz permission to question the three soldiers implicated in Couso's death: Sgt. Thomas Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp of the 3rd Armored Division of the US Infantry.

The United States rejected Spanish jurisdiction in the matter and repeated the official version of the US Army that the round that killed Couso was launched as part of an action of returning enemy fire, presumably from Iraqis in another part of the hotel.

Couso's relatives, backed by organizations including Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, rejected the Pentagon report clearing U.S. military personnel of any wrongdoing or misconduct in the incident.

Sgt. Gibson was the one who fired from an M1 Abrams tank after seeing someone was using binoculars to observe his group from Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, where most of the foreign journalists covering the US invasion were staying.

A month after the incident, Gibson told Spain's Tele 5 network, "I didn't fire on him immediately. I called my superiors and told them what I had seen. Ten minutes later, they called me and told me to fire on him, and so I did".

His immediate superior, Capt. Wolford, authorized him to fire after the gunner told him he had seen someone in the hotel using binoculars, according to an interview Wolford gave the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur.

Lt. Col. De Camp, in an interview published in the Los Angeles Times last April 11, also acknowledged that he authorized the firing on the hotel.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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