Monday, July 10, 2006

U.S. military names soldiers charged in rape, murder probe


(CNN) -- The U.S. military Monday released the names of five soldiers, including two sergeants, charged in the rape and murder of Iraqi civilians in Mahmoudiya, Iraq.

The military said that Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spc. James P. Barker, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard were charged on Saturday in connection with their alleged participation in the rape and murder of an Iraqi female, and the murders of three other family members.

Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe was charged with dereliction of duty "for his failure to report the rape and murder of these Iraqi civilians, but is not alleged to have been a direct participant in the rape and killings," the military said.

All five were charged over the weekend with conspiring with former Pfc. Steven D. Green to commit the crimes, the military said, in connection with the March incident.

There have been conflicting reports about the alleged rape victim's age. Sunday, Reuters news agency released documents indicating that she was 14.

Reuters said identification cards and death certificates give the victim's name as Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. Her date of birth is listed as August 19, 1991.

The mayor of Mahmoudiya confirmed that birth date to CNN. (Watch tour of the alleged crime scene -- 2:15)

However, a Justice Department affidavit in the case against Green says investigators estimated the victim's age at about 25, while the U.S. military said she was 20.

The U.S. military statement Sunday made clear that officials are aware of the discrepancies and that her age is an important part of the investigation.

Green has been charged in a U.S. civilian court with rape and murder. Last week he pleaded not guilty in federal court in Kentucky.

Prosecutors have said Green shot and killed an Iraqi man, woman and child before raping a young female from the same family and killing her. (Watch leaders disagree on 'American justice' -- 1:24)

A Justice Department affidavit says Green and other soldiers planned to rape a young woman who lived near the checkpoint they manned in Mahmoudiya.

The affidavit says three soldiers allegedly accompanied Green into the house, and another soldier was told to monitor the radio while the assault took place.

The affidavit says Green shot the woman's relatives, including a girl of about 5; raped the young woman; then fatally shot her.

Soldiers are quoted in the affidavit as telling investigators that Green and his companions then set the family's house afire, threw an AK-47 rifle used in the killings into a canal and burned their bloodstained clothing.

Green was honorably discharged from the Army before the incident came to light after being diagnosed with an unspecified personality disorder, according to court papers.

A U.S. defense official told CNN the five soldiers are still on their base in the Mahmoudiya area, have had their weapons taken away, and are being escorted everywhere they go on the base.

Green remains behind bars in Louisville, Kentucky.

The military, in its news release Sunday, wrote that the charges are "merely an accusation. Those accused are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

The statement said the soldiers still on active duty will face an Article 32 investigation, similar to a grand jury hearing in civilian law. The Article 32 proceeding will determine whether there is enough evidence to place them on trial.

No comments: