Three US soldiers wanted over journalist’s death
19 October 2005
MADRID – A high court judge issued international arrest warrants for three US Army soldiers – a lieutenant colonel, a captain and a sergeant – who played a role in the tank fire that killed a Spanish journalist in Baghdad in April 2003.
The National Court said the warrants are “the only effective means of assuring the presence of those implicated before Spain’s judicial authority, in light of the total absence of cooperation” from the United States, which has declined to respond to other overtures from the tribunal.
The court is investigating the death of television cameraman Jose Couso, who was killed on 8 April, 2003 while filming from a balcony of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad.
A colleague from Reuters also died from the explosion of the round fired by a US Army tank.
The case was brought by a press watchdog group in support of the family of Couso.
In June, the court – which handles high-profile terrorism, drug-trafficking and corruption cases, among others – asked Washington to allow a Spanish magistrate to question the three US soldiers named in the warrants. That request went unanswered.
The three wanted soldiers are Sgt. Thomas Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp.
Couso’s relatives, backed by organizations including Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, reject a Pentagon report clearing US military personnel of any wrongdoing or misconduct in the incident.
Spain’s previous conservative government accepted Washington’s explanation, but the current Socialist administration, which pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq, has been more receptive to the arguments of the Couso family.
Sgt. Gibson was the one who fired from an Abrahms M-1 tank after seeing someone was using binoculars to observe his group from Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, where most of the foreign journalist covering the U.S. invasion of Iraq were staying.
Ukrainian photographer Taras Protsyuk, a Reuters newsman, was also killed in the attack.
A month after the incident, Gibson told Spain’s Tele 5 network, which employed Couso, “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 on 11 April, also acknowledged that he authorized the firing on the hotel.
The crime being investigated by the court appears in the Spanish criminal code as “conducting or ordering excessive or indiscriminate attacks or making the civilian population the object of attacks, reprisals or threats of violence”.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news