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Iraq: Americans charged over rape-murder

Publish Date: 09 Jul 2006

Source: Reuters
By Alastair Macdonald

Americans charged over Iraq rape-murder

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Five U.S. soldiers were charged in a rape and multiple murder case that has outraged Iraqis, as documents obtained by Reuters on Sunday showed the rape victim was a minor aged just 14, and not over 20 as U.S. officials say.

Days after former private Steven Green was charged as a civilian in a U.S. court with rape and four murders, four serving soldiers were charged with the same offences, the U.S. military said in statement that did not name the troops.

Another soldier, apparently a sixth member of Green's former unit in the 502nd Infantry Regiment, was charged on Saturday with dereliction of duty for not reporting the crime in March.

All five were charged with conspiring with Green, who is accused by U.S. prosecutors of going with three others to a house near the checkpoint they were manning outside Mahmudiya, near Baghdad, and of killing a couple and their two daughters.

Those court documents gave the raped daughter's estimated age as 25, though U.S. military officials in Iraq say their documents have her as 20.

Her identity card and a copy of her death certificate, however, show she was just 14.

Local officials and relatives had said she was 15 or 16.

Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi was born on August 19, 1991 in Baghdad, according to the identity card, provided to Reuters by a relative. Issued in 1993, it features a photograph of her at 18 months, wide-eyed and with a lick of dark hair over her brow.

A copy of her death certificate, dated March 13, gives the same birth date. She was found at home by a relative on March 12 and had died from "gunshot wounds to the head, with burns", that document, signed by doctor Wael Habib and a registrar, asserts.

With five Americans now facing the death penalty in the case, the fact the rape victim was a minor could be a factor in sentencing in the event of any convictions. Abeer's sister Hadeel was just six when she died of "several gunshot wounds".

The killers tried to burn the bodies and house to cover their tracks, relatives and local officials have said.

GOVERNMENT ANGER

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, balancing a dependence on U.S. firepower with a need to show Iraqis he is in charge, has voiced frustration with a mounting number of cases against Americans and wants a review of their immunity from Iraqi law.

Since revelations in March of a U.S. probe into whether Marines killed 24 people at Haditha, Mahmudiya is the fifth case of serious crime being investigated by the military. In all, 16 troops have been charged with murder in the past month or so -- as many as in the previous three years of the war.

Officers say generals are cracking down to try to curb harm to civilians that have turned Iraqis against the troops. One said a report submitted on Friday to the top general in Iraq should see action against Marine commanders who failed to act on evidence troops may have killed civilians at Haditha on November 19.

Green, 21, has since been discharged from the army due to a "personality disorder". The case came to light during stress counseling for a soldier last month following the kidnap and killing of two other men from the same unit near Mahmudiya.

A soldier cited in U.S. court documents as the first witness told investigators that Green and three others drank alcohol and discussed rape. They then told the soldier to keep watch on the radio as they set off for the house, some in civilian clothes.

Two soldiers who said they went to the house accused Green of killing the parents and child before he and the other soldier in the home raped the woman. Green then shot her too, they said.

A sixth unidentified soldier is mentioned in court papers as discussing the case later with the first witness at their base.

The military said: "The five soldiers were charged in connection with their alleged participation in the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and three members of her family.

"The fifth soldier was charged with dereliction of duty for his failure to report the rape and murder ... but is not alleged to have been a direct participant in the rape and killings."

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