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2006-07-11

Iraqi Journalist Details Family Accounts of Iraq Rape, Killings

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The U.S. military has identified the four soldiers charged with raping an Iraqi teenager and murdering her and three family members. We go to Baghdad to speak with an Iraqi journalist with the Los Angeles Times who interviewed the cousin of the family, Abu Firas Janabi–he says he was the first person to enter the house after the attack. [includes rush transcript]

The U.S. military has identified the four soldiers charged with raping an Iraqi teenager and murdering her and three family members. A military official named them on Monday as Sergeant Paul Cortez, Specialist James Barker and Privates First Class Jesse Spielman and Bryan Howard. A fifth soldier, Sergeant Anthony Yribe was also charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report the crime.

Prosecutors say the troops conspired with Steven Green, who was arrested last week and charged as a civilian with rape and murder. Green was honorably discharged from the Army after being diagnosed with a "personality disorder."

The Iraqi government has called for an independent inquiry and Iraq’s human rights minister said Monday he will ask the United Nations to stop granting U.S. troops immunity from local prosecution.

The details of the case that have emerged so far paint a harrowing picture of premeditated brutality by US soldiers in Iraq.

According to an affidavit based on sworn statements from several members of Green’s infantry unit, the soldiers planned the attack after noticing the girl, Abeer Qasim Hamza, at a US checkpoint in the town of Mahmudiyah. On March 12th, the soldiers broke into her family’s home. Some of them had been drinking and all but one had disguised themselves in dark clothing.

Green herded Abeer’s mother, Fakhriya Taha Muhsen; her father, Kasim Hamza Rasheed; and her five-year old sister Hadel into a room and shot them with an AK-47 rifle. Green and another soldier then raped Abeer, shot her, and set her body on fire in an apparent effort to cover up the crime. Abeer had reportedly expressed concerns to her mother because the soldiers had made advances towards her. A newly-released copy of her identity card shows that she was fourteen years old. For more than a week since the killings came to light US officials have claimed she was twenty.

The military initially believed insurgents carried out the attack until at least two soldiers discussed it during counseling sessions following the abduction and slaying of two members of their platoon.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Baghdad to speak with Raheem Salman, an Iraqi journalist with the Los Angeles Times. He interviewed the cousin of the family, who said he was the first person to enter the house after the attack. We welcome to you Democracy Now!, Raheem Salman.

RAHEEM SALMAN: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what the cousin, al-Janabi, told you about what he found when he came to Abeer’s house?

RAHEEM SALMAN: Well, indeed, Abu Firas Janabi told me that he heard from a very close neighbor to the victim’s family, that they were murdered, they were killed. He said he rushed — he took his wife, using his private car. He said, "When I have arrived at the house, I found the two children, who were survived." Fortunately, they were in their school, Ahmed was in the third class, primary school, and his brother was also in the first class only. He found them in front of the house, crying. And they saw — I mean, Abu Firas and his wife saw that there was a white smoke coming out from the house.

First, they had a glance through the window to one of the rooms, toward the sitting room. They saw one corpse, but they, you know, they could not identify whose corpse was that. And then, they were looking through the windows, you know, it was difficult, the visibility was difficult for them. Later on, his wife discovered the three other corpses: the father, mother and their daughter. And separately, in another room. They tried to extinguish the fire of the corpses.

And then, after, you know, they knew that the incident has happened and they were killed, he went to a joint checkpoint, in which there are Iraqi and American soldiers, and told them about the incident. They came with him to the house. They took the corpses. And then he was told to report to the hospital of Mahmoudiya tomorrow morning, in order to receive the corpses. Yeah?

AMY GOODMAN: Now, Abeer, Raheem Salman, reportedly told her mother that the soldiers were making advances towards her, that they saw her at the checkpoint?

RAHEEM SALMAN: Could you repeat your question, please?

AMY GOODMAN: Is it true that Abeer, the — what appears to be her age, 14 years old now, had already told her mother that she was afraid of the soldiers, that they were making advances to her at the checkpoint?

RAHEEM SALMAN: Uh-huh. Indeed I have been told by this relative that Abeer expressed her concern to her mother about ten days ago. The harassment started by the soldier for her ten days ago. That’s why even her mother, you know, asked her to sleep in one of the neighbor’s house. But later on, this relative told them, told the mother that he has a house, an empty house, near his house. This house is far from there, about one kilometer. He asked them to — he asked the mother to bring her family here. But then, they said that "it’s alright. We have so many neighbors." And I don’t think — they don’t think that something will happen. That’s why they did not move from their house until the incident that took place.

AMY GOODMAN: Raheem Salman, how has the rape and the killings affected the community?

RAHEEM SALMAN: Well, indeed, to tell you frankly that it has a great impact upon the whole society, upon all Iraqis. This is one of the worst crimes, you know, to be committed against a girl in this age. Some people describe this murder and rape as horrible and gruesome and disgusting, indeed. Others describe it even as a brand of shame, even in the American Army’s history. Others consider it as example of the atrocity of some of the soldiers. Among the lawmakers here in our parliament, some female lawmakers, you know, protested strongly under the dome of the parliament. They asked the parliament to call the prime minister and the minister of interior. They also asked for a real participation of the Iraqi side in the investigation, and not only the Americans. And you know, most of the elders in the Iraqi streets, they are also concerned that, you know, it will pass like abuses or some other crimes, and not — the concerned people, they are not punished in the same level of their crime. So they are expecting that, you know, they will be punished, at least the ultimate penalty, and not a sham trial.

AMY GOODMAN: Raheem Salman, now these videos have been released linking the mutilation and killing of the two U.S. soldiers to the rape and slaying of Abeer and her family, the soldiers who were killed from the same unit as the men who allegedly committed this crime.

RAHEEM SALMAN: Yes. Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: The response?

RAHEEM SALMAN: Yes, that’s correct. Sorry, could you repeat the last part?

AMY GOODMAN: Your response?

RAHEEM SALMAN: Oh, yes. Indeed, the people in Mahmoudiya and other places, they are talking or they are suspecting that the kidnapping of the two soldiers, it was happening because of the crime committed against this family and against this girl, you know, because both incidents took place in the same place, which is Mahmoudiya and Yousefiya. The soldiers are from the same military unit, where the soldiers of the checkpoints are, so people are connecting this incident to that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Raheem Salman, for joining with us. Is it also true that the two boys, Abeer’s brothers, who came and found the family killed, were then taken to U.S. military, have met with them?

RAHEEM SALMAN: Well, indeed the eyewitness told me that the commander told them that the Americans will take care of them. And the commander was too sad to see these people, and it was difficult for him to control his tears when he talked to them, was kissing them. And he said it’s his responsibility to take care of those two kids. It is the responsibility of the American Army.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Raheem Salman, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Iraqi journalist with the Los Angeles Times, speaking to us from Baghdad.

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