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US soldier pleads guilty to raping Iraqi teenager

Guardian

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November 15, 2006

A US soldier today pleaded guilty to taking part in the rape of an Iraqi teenage girl and the murder of her family.

Specialist James Barker, being tried at a military court in Kentucky, entered the plea to avoid the death penalty, his civilian lawyer, David Sheldon, said.

A criminal investigation into the killing of the family of four at their home in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, in March 2006, started in June.

Barker is one of four US soldiers charged with premeditated murder over the rape and killing of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, her parents and her five-year-old sister.

He has agreed to co-operate with prosecutors and testify against his fellow accused - Private Jesse Spielman, Private Bryan Howard, Sergeant Paul Cortez and former Private Stephen Green - Mr Sheldon said.

His civilian lawyer, David Sheldon, said his client's guilty plea was in exchange for a sentence lighter than the death penalty.

The soldiers are also accused of burning Abeer's body in an effort to conceal evidence.

Barker is the first soldier to plead guilty to the crimes. Sergeant Cortez, who faces the death penalty, has deferred entering a plea.

Mr Green has pleaded not guilty to the charges in a federal court, while Private Spielman will not enter a plea until December.

At a preliminary hearing at a military court in Baghdad in August, Barker provided evidence about the rape and murders in a written statement.

It is alleged that Mr Green, claimed to have been the ringleader, had repeatedly told comrades he wanted to kill some Iraqis.

On the day of the attack, Barker and his fellow accused played cards, drank Iraqi whisky mixed with an energy drink and played golf.

At some stage, they decided to go to the house of a girl they had seen passing by their checkpoint.

When they arrived at the home, former Private Green dragged the father, mother and younger sister into a bedroom, while Abeer was left in the living room.

In the statement, Barker said Cortez appeared to rape the girl, and he followed. He said he heard gunshots and Mr Green came out of the bedroom, saying he had killed the family, before raping the girl and shooting her with an AK-47.

Barker said he poured kerosene on the girl's body, and she was set alight. It was not clear who started the fire.


:: Article nr. 28301 sent on 16-nov-2006 04:18 ECT

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Link: www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1948615,00.html



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