Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Investigator testifies in US soldiers' murder-rape case

AP , BAGHDAD

An Army investigator testified on Monday that US soldiers took turns raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, before one of them put a bullet through her head after killing her parents and five-year-old sister.

Criminal investigator Benjamin Bierce revealed parts of a sworn statement by one of the five soldiers accused in the rape-slaying during testimony on the second day of a hearing to determine whether they must stand trial in the March 12 attack near Mahmoudiya.

The alleged rape-slaying of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and the killing of her family are among the most savage in a series of cases of alleged misconduct by soldiers that have tarnished the US military.

Bierce said he recorded a statement June 30 by Specialist James Barker in which the young soldier told how he and his comrades had been playing cards and drinking Iraqi whisky mixed with an energy drink as they plotted the attack.

Afterward hitting golf balls, they headed for the girl's house, 250m from their post at a traffic checkpoint, Bierce said, based on Barker's statement. Following the assault, the soldiers returned to their post, where Barker grilled chicken wings, Bierce testified.

Barker's sworn statement was submitted in evidence during the hearing, which will determine whether there is enough evidence to convene a court-martial. If convicted of premeditated murder, the soldiers could receive a death sentence.

Barker is accused along with Sargent Paul Cortez, Private First Class Jesse Spielman and Private First Class Bryan Howard of rape and murder. Another soldier, Sargent Anthony Yribe, is accused of failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct participant.

According to Bierce, Barker said the soldiers found Abeer and her father outside the house. Spielman grabbed the girl while the others seized her father and took them inside, Bierce said.

Since the case became public last month, US officials have said they were concerned it could strain relations with Iraq's new government.

They have offered assurances that the case will be pursued vigorously and that the soldiers will be punished if convicted.

The case has already increased demands for changes in an agreement that exempts US soldiers from prosecution in Iraqi courts. And Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has demanded an independent investigation into the case.

This story has been viewed 3407 times.
TOP top