Spain Drops Charges against US Troops Who Killed Journalists

May 14th, 2008 - by admin

BBC News & Al Jazeera – 2008-05-14 00:40:45

Spain Drops US Army Murder Case
BBC News

MADRID (May 13, 2008) — A Spanish court has thrown out murder charges against three US soldiers accused of killing a Spanish cameraman during the war in Iraq. Jose Couso, 37, died in April 2003 after a US tank fired on a hotel used by foreign journalists in Baghdad.

Madrid’s National Court dropped all charges, ruling there was “insufficient evidence” to continue with the trial. The court ruling underlined that the case was being definitively dismissed, with no further opportunity to appeal.

US officials ignored two international arrest warrants issued for Sgt Thomas Gibson, Cpt Philip Wolford and Lt-Col Philip De Camp, in 2005 and 2007.

The men had been charged with murder and a crime against the international community. Under Spanish law, this is defined as an excessive attack against civilians during war.

Attack Footage
The attack happened at Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, the base for almost all the foreign media crews in the capital during the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Mr Couso was working for Spain’s Telecinco television station at the time. Reuters cameraman Taras Portsyuk, a Ukrainian, was also killed in the blast and three other Reuters staff were injured.

The US admitted its tank crew fired at the Palestine Hotel but cleared the three soldiers of blame. The soldiers say they thought they were being shot at when they opened fire.

Footage of the incident on the day before the fall of the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein — which did not record any fire from the hotel — was witnessed around the world.

A US review of the incident ruled that the use of force by the tank was justified, but the family of Mr Couso decided to press criminal charges through the Spanish courts.


Spain Drops Iraq Killing Charges
Al Jazeera

MADRID (May 13, 2008) — Spain’s national court has dropped murder charges against three United States soldiers accused of killing a Spanish television cameraman during the shelling of a Baghdad hotel in 2003.

A three-judge panel said there was “insufficient evidence” indicating an “intentional desire” by the US soldiers to target civilians inside the Iraqi hotel.

In their ruling, the judges said: “We cannot exclude the possibility that the shot was fired from the combat vehicle with the belief that it was heading against a target that was mistakenly identified as hostile within the framework of a simple act of war.”

The charges were laid against Thomas Gibson, a sergeant, Philip Wolford, a captain, and Philip de Camp, a lieutenant colonel, by Judge Santiago Pedraz in April 2007.

The court said the charges should be definitively dismissed, saying there was no further avenue for appeal.

Dead Journalists
Pedraz had cited the three US soldiers as responsible for the tank shelling on April 8, 2003 of the Hotel Palestine which killed Jose Couso, who worked for Telecinco, a private Spanish private television station.

Another cameraman, Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, died in the shelling while three other staff members of the Reuters news agency were wounded. Pedraz had argued at the time that the soldiers “knew that the Palestine Hotel (like the zone in which it was situated) was occupied by civilians”.

US officials had not responded to the judge’s repeated attempts to make the trio face a Spanish court, ignoring two international warrants for the soldiers’ arrest issued in October 2005 and January 2007.

A US inquiry carried out in 2004 into the hotel shelling found no fault or negligence on the part of US troops.

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