BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A U.S. military court in Baghdad heard graphic testimony on Monday of how three U.S. soldiers took turns raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl before murdering her and her family.
At the hearing into whether four U.S. soldiers should be court-martialled for rape and murder, a special agent described what took place in Mahmudiya in March, based on an interview he had with one of the men, Specialist James Barker.
The case, the fifth involving serious crimes being investigated by the U.S. military in Iraq, has outraged Iraqis and led Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to call for a review of foreign troops' immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law.
Special Agent Benjamin Bierce recalled that Barker described to him how they put a couple and their six-year-old daughter into a bedroom of their home, but kept the teenage girl in the living room, where Barker held her hands while Sergeant Paul Cortez raped her or attempted to rape her.
Barker then switched positions with Cortez and attempted to rape the girl but said he was not sure if he had done so, Bierce told the hearing.
Barker also told the special agent he heard shots from the bedroom and shortly afterwards Private Steven Green emerged from the room, put down an AK-47 assault rifle and raped the girl while Cortez held her down.
SHOT HER SEVERAL TIMES
Barker told Bierce that Green then picked up the weapon and shot her once, paused, and shot her several more times.
Military prosecutors are expected to set out their case against Private First Class Jesse Spielman, 21, Barker, 23, Cortez, 23 and Private First Class Bryan Howard, 19, who face charges of rape and murder among others.
If court-martialled after the Article 32 hearing -- the military's equivalent of a U.S. grand jury -- and found guilty, they could face the death penalty. The hearing began on Sunday and is expected to last several days.
Green, 21, faces the same charges in a U.S. federal court in Kentucky, home of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, his former unit. Green, who has pleaded not guilty, was discharged from the army for a "personality disorder."
A fifth soldier, Sergeant Anthony Yribe, is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement and will also appear at the hearing at a U.S. base next to Baghdad airport.
An Iraqi army medic told the hearing on Sunday he entered the house and found the body of 14-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi naked and burned from the waist up, with a single bullet wound beneath her left eye.
Bierce said Barker told him he poured kerosene from a lamp on to the girl. It was not clear who set her on fire.
Barker later signed a sworn statement based on the interview, in which he said that on the day of the attack he, Cortez, Spielman and Green had been playing cards and drinking whisky mixed with an energy drink. They then went to the rear of the checkpoint where they ware based to hit golf balls.
Green said he wanted to go to a house and kill some Iraqis, Barker wrote in his sworn statement.
After the rape and murders, he wrote that he began to grill chicken wings.
The hearing continues.