[JURIST] An Iraqi official said Tuesday that an independent panel established to investigate the alleged March 12 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl [JURIST news archive] and the murder of her family at the hands of US soldiers in Mahmudiya has begun its inquiry. The US military has charged five soldiers in the case and is currently deciding whether the soldiers will face courts-martial [JURIST report]; another former soldier faces charges [JURIST report] in a US civil court. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile], who called for the independent investigation [JURIST report] in July, has said, however, that he wants those believed responsible tried in an Iraqi court. Adnan Mahmoud, the chief prosecutor of Mahmudiya's criminal court who is leading the investigation, said Tuesday that if the soldiers do not stand trial in an Iraqi court they will be tried in absentia. Mahmoud also rejected arguments that the accused soldiers are immune from Iraqi prosecution [JURIST report] under a decree [PDF text] issued by the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) [official website], saying they were not taking part in a military action when the crimes were committed. When the Iraqi panel concludes its investigation, the Iraqi Cabinet will review the results and determine the next step.
Four US soldiers have been charged [JURIST report] with rape and murder, while a fifth has been charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report the incident and making false statements. Steven Green, who was discharged from the Army before the allegations arose, has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and murder in the US District Court for the District of Kentucky [official website]. Green's arraignment has been delayed [JURIST report] to avoid complications with evidence used in the investigation [JURIST report] into the five soldiers still in Iraq. AP has more.