Spain issues arrest warrant for three U.S. soldiers accused of killing two journalists in 2003

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest warrant for 3 U.S. soldiers whose tank fire killed a Spanish journalist, Jose Couso, and a Ukrainian cameraman in a Baghdad hotel on April 8, 2003. Judge Santiago Pedraz issued the warrant on Wednesday for the arrests of Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp. The judge hopes that the three will be extradited to Spain to face charges of "murder" and a "crime against the international community".

Pedraz resorted to issuing the warrant after the United States government ignored requests to send documents pertaining to the case as well as a request to send a legal team to question the soldiers. He said that because of the lack of cooperation in the matter, extradition was "the only effective measure to ensure the accused are made available to Spanish judicial authorities."

Jose Couso, a cameraman with Spain's Telecinco network, died at the Palestine Hotel as United States forces moved through to take control of the area. A lawyer working for the man's family told CNN that she doubted the warrant would have any effect. According to her, the United States probably will not extradite the men to face charges and there is little chance Spain can arrest them if they do not leave the US.

Additionally, Spanish news agencies have reported that the National Court prosecutor's office announced later Wednesday that it would appeal the arrest warrant on the grounds that Judge Pedraz has no jurisdiction in the case.

United States State Department officials have commented in the past that they do not plan to extradite the three men. "I just cannot imagine how any U.S. soldier can be subject to some kind of foreign proceeding for criminal liability when he is in a tank in a war zone as part of an international coalition," a U.S. State Department official, requesting anonymity, said in June.