Newswatch | Newswatch

You are here

Spanish judge reinstates murder charges against three US soldiers in Couso killing

Spanish judge reinstates charges against US soldiers in Couso killing
Colleagues protesting José Couso's death.

Spanish investigating judge Santiago Pedraz has decided to reinstate murder charges against the three US soldiers responsible for shelling the Hotel Palestine in Baghdad on April 8, 2003, killing two cameramen, one of them the Spanish. The order came on Thursday.

Spain’s National Court had ordered the withdrawal of the charges for lack of evidence in May 2008. José Couso, a Spanish cameraman working for the Spanish TV station Telecinco, and Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman working for Reuters, were killed by a US tank shell fired at the hotel, which was being used by several hundred journalists who had come to cover the US invasion. Two other journalists and a media technician were wounded.

The case dates back to May 27, 2003, when Couso’s brother, David Couso, filed a complaint in Madrid accusing three US soldiers of a “war crime” and “murder”. The soldiers named in the complaint, all members of the 64th armoured regiment of the US army’s third infantry division, were Sgt. Thomas Gibson, Capt Philip Wolford and Lt Col Philip de Camp, the regiment’s commander, who gave the order to fire. The National Court, which is Spain’s highest criminal court, ruled on October 21, 2003 that the case could be heard.

A US army investigation had meanwhile concluded on August 12, 2003 that the tank crew had acted in legitimate self-defence when it fired on the Palestine Hotel. The Spanish case was closed on March 10, 2006, but was reopened on the Spanish supreme court’s orders on December 14, 2006.

On January 16, 2007, Spain issued an international warrant for the arrest of the three US soldiers for “murder” and a request for their extradition. An appeal by the Spanish prosecutor’s office against the indictment of the three US soldiers was rejected on May 24, 2007.

The National Court ruled on May 13, 2008 that there was “insufficient evidence,” thereby preventing Judge Pedraz from pursuing the case. But on May 21, the judge announced that he had new evidence that allowed him to reopen the investigation. There were “reasonable grounds” for charging the US soldiers, he said in his new indictment.

Date posted: May 23, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 341