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Spain Reorders Arrest of 3 U.S. Soldiers

By CIARAN GILES
The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; 2:02 PM

MADRID, Spain -- A judge on Tuesday reissued an international arrest warrant for three U.S. soldiers whose tank fired on a Baghdad hotel during the Iraq war, killing a Spanish journalist, a court spokesman said.

The National Court dismissed the case in March, but the Supreme Court overruled that decision last month, ordering the investigation into Jose Couso's killing to be reopened.

Couso, who worked as a cameraman for the Spanish television network Telecinco, died April 8, 2003, after a U.S. army tank crew fired a shell at a hotel in Baghdad where journalists were staying. Taras Portsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters, was also killed.

Following the incident, then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said American troops opened fire after drawing hostile fire from the hotel. He said a U.S. review of the incident found the use of force was justified.

The arrest warrant is for Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp, all from the U.S. 3rd Infantry, which is based in Fort Stewart, Ga.

The United States did not respond to the previous arrest warrant or two requests by National Court Judge Santiago Pedraz to have statements taken from the soldiers.

Although it is unlikely the soldiers will be extradited from the United States, they run the risk of arrest should they travel to any country which has an extradition accord with Spain.

Pedraz had initially issued an arrest warrant for the soldiers in October 2005, but the court threw out the case in March, ruling that Spain lacked jurisdiction to examine the causes of death in the Iraq war.

Couso's family successfully appealed that ruling before the Supreme Court, leading to the judge's decision to reissue the arrest warrant on Tuesday, a court spokeswoman said on customary condition of anonymity because of court rules.

Under Spanish law, a crime committed against a Spaniard abroad can be prosecuted here if it is not investigated in the country where it is committed.


© 2007 The Associated Press