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Spain seeks arrest of U.S. soldiers

Warrants issued in death of Spanish TV cameraman

From Al Goodman
CNN

YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS

Iraq
Spain
Crime, Law and Justice

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spanish judge issued an international arrest warrant Wednesday, charging three U.S. soldiers with murder in the death of a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad.

Jose Couso was killed as U.S. forces advanced to take control of the Iraqi capital in April 2003, a National Court spokeswoman said.

National Court investigating magistrate Santiago Pedraz issued the warrant for the arrests of the three soldiers and their eventual extradition to Spain.

They are wanted on charges of murder and a crime against the international community, according to the warrant.

The warrant names the three soldiers as Sgt. Thomas Gibson, commander of the tank that allegedly fired a projectile at the hotel where Couso was filming; Capt. Philip Wolford, Gibson's superior; and Lt. Col. Philip D. Camp, the captain's superior, CNN partner network CNN+ reported.

The arrest warrant says the United States provided "no judicial cooperation" in the investigation of the cameraman's death. Couso worked for Spain's Telecinco national network.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for reaction to the warrant. In the past, European courts have issued war crime indictments for U.S. officials. The United States does not turn over its soldiers.

Couso was shooting images of war-torn Baghdad at the Hotel Palestine on April 8, 2003, when the hotel was hit by a tank shell.

Many international journalists were based at the hotel. Telecinco said Couso died during surgery afterward. Taras Protsyuk, a Ukranian cameraman for Reuters, also was killed.

A Pentagon report said that the American troops had thought that an Iraqi scout was directing fire from the building and that they had not violated any rules of engagement during the incident.

Journalists from three Western television networks told CNN they were in the hotel when the tank fired and saw no fire coming from the Hotel Palestine.

Couso's family has waged a campaign calling for an independent investigation into the cameraman's death.

An attorney for Couso's family told CNN+ that she doubted the arrest warrant would have much practical effect. She said she understood that the United States would not extradite the men and that they stood little chance of arrest unless they left the United States.

Couso was one of three journalists killed in two buildings in Baghdad that day. The third was Al-Jazeera television reporter Tariq Ayoub, killed at the Arabic-language network's facilities on the other side of the Tigris River from the hotel, near Iraq's Ministry of Information.

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 56 journalists have been killed in Iraq since March 2003.

The committee's investigation found that the shelling of the hotel was not deliberate but could have been avoided.

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