COURT DROPS MURDER CHARGES AGAINST US SOLDIERS

The National Court has dropped murder charges against three US soldiers accused of killing a Spanish cameraman during the war in Iraq, ruling there was “insufficient evidence” to continue with the trial. Jose Couso, 37, died in April 2003 after a US tank fired on a hotel used by foreign journalists in Baghdad. The court ruling underlined that the case was being definitively dismissed, with no further opportunity to appeal. US officials ignored two international arrest warrants issued for Sgt Thomas Gibson, Cpt Philip Wolford and Lt-Col Philip De Camp, in 2005 and 2007. The men had been charged with murder and a crime against the international community. Under Spanish law, this is defined as an excessive attack against civilians during war. The attack happened at Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, the base for almost all the foreign media crews in the capital during the US-led invasion of Iraq. Sr Couso was working for the Telecinco television station at the time. Reuters cameraman Taras Portsyuk, a Ukrainian, was also killed in the blast and three other Reuters staff were injured. The US admitted its tank crew fired at the Palestine Hotel but cleared the three soldiers of blame. The soldiers say they thought they were being shot at when they opened fire. A US review of the incident ruled that the use of force by the tank was justified, but Sr Couso’s family decided to press criminal charges through the Spanish courts.

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