Probe by Iraq sought in killings

Leader wants role for his country in case of U.S. soldier charged in rape, 4 deaths

July 06, 2006|By ALEX RODRIGUEZ | ALEX RODRIGUEZ,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded yesterday that his country be allowed to investigate, independently or with the United States, the case of a former Army private charged with raping an Iraqi woman and killing her and three members of her family.

Speaking in Kuwait, al-Maliki said that he would "demand either an independent and separate Iraqi investigation or to share the investigation with the multinational forces.

"But in any case," al-Maliki said, "I promise the Iraqi people a transparent investigation into this case."

The prime minister sharply criticized the immunity that shields U.S. troops from prosecution by Iraqi courts, saying the continuation of that protection should be reviewed.

"We believe that the immunity given to members of coalition forces encouraged them to commit such crimes in cold blood, and that makes it necessary to review it," he said.

Former Pfc. Steven D. Green, 21, was arrested Monday in North Carolina on charges that he raped and then shot to death an Iraqi woman March 12 in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad. Green is also accused of killing the woman's parents and younger sister.

Other soldiers who were at the woman's house have been confined to their base and have not been charged.

Al-Maliki's remarks reflected the growing friction between the Iraqi government and the U.S. military as American commanders carry out their fourth investigation in four months into allegations that U.S. soldiers killed Iraqi civilians.

Those cases include allegations that U.S. Marines shot to death 24 Iraqi civilians Nov. 19 in the western town of Haditha. They are suspected of barging into homes on a shooting rampage after a roadside bomb had killed a fellow Marine.

The U.S. military has also charged eight Marines with kidnapping and killing an Iraqi civilian in Hamdaniya on April 26.

And the military has charged two U.S. soldiers with voluntary manslaughter in the death of an unarmed Iraqi from Ramadi on Feb. 15. The soldiers are charged with shooting the man, then putting a rifle near his body to make it appear that he was a militant.

The cases have eroded the U.S. military's credibility with Iraqis. Al-Maliki's remarks suggest a lack of confidence within the Iraqi government that the United States will appropriately punish soldiers found responsible for the killings.

Iraqi Justice Minister Hashim Abdul-Rahman al-Shibli has called for United Nations oversight of the Mahmoudiya investigation to ensure adequate punishment.

Alex Rodriguez writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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