Hearing to begin for five soldiers in Mahmoudiya rape-slaying case

August 5th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Hearing to begin for five soldiers in Mahmoudiya rape-slaying case

BAGHDAD, Iraq_Months of bombings and shootings had left U.S. soldiers of
every rank in the Army's 502nd Infantry Regiment emotionally ragged and
strained. They had lost dozens of their colleagues _ more than most units.

Those conditions are expected to be at the core of defense arguments as a
hearing opens Sunday to determine whether five soldiers from the regiment
must stand trial in the rape-slaying of a 14-year-old girl last March in
Mahmoudiya. Three members of her family were also slain.

The soldiers _ Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spc. James P. Barker, Pfc. Jesse V.
Spielman and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard _ are charged with conspiring to rape the
girl along with former Pfc. Steven D. Green, who was arrested in North
Carolina in June.

A fifth soldier from the same unit, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, is charged with
failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct

The Article 32 hearing, the civilian equivalent of a grand jury proceeding,
will decide whether there is enough evidence to convene a court-martial.

The March 12 attack in Mahmoudiya is among the worst in a series of cases of
U.S. troops allegedly killing and abusing Iraqi civilians.

Four other soldiers from another regiment in the 101st Airborne Division
have been accused of killing three Iraqi detainees three months ago in
Samarra. The Article 32 hearing in that case wrapped up Friday in Tikrit but
no decision on a trial has been announced yet.

According to an FBI affidavit, the soldiers in the Mahmoudiya case drank
alcohol before abandoning their checkpoint, changed clothes and headed to
the victims' house, about 200 meters (yards) from a U.S. military checkpoint
in a Sunni Arab area south of Baghdad.

The soldiers are also accused of setting fire to the young girl's body to
destroy evidence.

Green has pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and four counts of murder
in federal court and is being held without bond.

But David Sheldon, Barker's Washington-based attorney, has said the
stressful environment in the Mahmoudiya area _ known in Iraq as the
"Triangle of Death" _ contributed to the way soldiers behaved.

"When you're in battle for a sustained period of time, there's certainly a
numbing effect as to how one responds in any one situation," Sheldon said,
referring to Barker's two combat tours in Iraq, during which he saw friends
and fellow soldiers in his unit killed.

U.S. officials, however, are concerned the alleged rape-slaying will strain
relations with the new U.S.-backed government if Iraqis perceive that the
soldiers receive lenient treatment. The case has already increased demands
for changes in an agreement that exempts American soldiers from prosecution
in Iraqi courts.

U.S. officials have assured the Iraqis that the Mahmoudiya case will be
pursued vigorously and that the soldiers will be punished if convicted.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has demanded an independent investigation
into the case.

The hearing is expected to last several days, and parts will be closed to
the media and public, including testimony from Iraqi witnesses. The
restriction was imposed after an appeal by the trial counsel to protect the
witnesses, who could be at risk if they are seen as collaborating with the

Iraqi authorities identified the rape victim as Abeer Qassim Hamza. The
other victims were her father, Qassim Hamza; her mother, Fikhriya Taha; and
her sister, Hadeel Qassim Hamza.
August 5th, 2006  
Hope these guys are punished to the fullest extent of either Iraqi or American law, whichever would be worse for them. That is if they are guilty.

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