U.S. soldiers are charged

5 more accused in rape, killings

July 10, 2006|By BORZOU DARAGAHI | BORZOU DARAGAHI,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Five more U.S. soldiers have been formally charged in the alleged rape of a young Iraqi and the killings of her and three family members in March, the U.S. military announced yesterday.

The military said in a statement that the charges had been lodged against four soldiers accused of involvement in rape and murder. A fifth soldier was charged with dereliction of duty in the case. Though he did not participate in the crimes, he failed to report the incident, the military said.

The charges were lodged Saturday, the military said. The five soldiers now face an Article 32 investigation, the military's equivalent of a grand jury inquest, to see if evidence warrants bringing them before a full-scale military tribunal or courts-martial.

"The preferral of court-martial charges is merely an accusation," said the statement. "Those accused are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

A former U.S. Army private, Steven D. Green, 21, had already appeared in federal court to face rape and murder charges in the case. He pleaded not guilty during the July 6 appearance in Charlotte, N.C. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

The statement said the five new suspects were charged with conspiring with Green to commit the crimes. The military did not release the names of the men.

Green received an honorable discharge from the military and returned to the United States before the alleged incident in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, came to light late last month. An affidavit submitted by an FBI special agent in connection with the request for an arrest warrant said military personnel files showed that a "personality disorder" had led to his discharge.

Green was a member of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, which was attached to the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq.

Unlike most incidents of alleged abuse of Iraqi civilians by U.S. soldiers, the killings of the young Iraqi and her family did not occur in the heat of battle but were planned for as much as a week, military officials have said.

According to the affidavit by Special Agent Gregor J. Ahlers, who said his information came largely from Army investigators who interviewed at least three of the soldiers involved, Green killed three family members before he and another soldier raped the young woman, whose age is in dispute. Green then shot the victim to death with an AK-47 found in the house, the documents said.

Two soldiers allegedly accompanied Green and his accomplices to the house but merely stood guard. Another soldier stayed at a checkpoint to monitor radio traffic.

Unlike a civilian grand jury, the military investigation allows the accused to attend and, through their defense counsel, to cross-examine government witnesses, call witnesses and present evidence, said Maj. Joseph Todd Breasseale, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq.

The five newly accused remain in Iraq but have been removed from their normal duties and are only allowed within the confines of their base, Breasseale said.

"They have had their weapons removed from them and are escorted at all times," he said.

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times. Times reporter writer Peter Spiegel in Washington contributed to this article.

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