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Mahmudiya rape-murder suspect said to implicate other US soldiers

[JURIST] One of the US soldiers charged with the rape and murders of Iraqi civilians in Mahmudiya [JURIST news archive] told a criminal investigator that the attack's alleged ringleader repeatedly spoke of wanting to kill Iraqis, according to testimony given Monday at a hearing in Baghdad. The investigator, Benjamin Bierce, testified at an Article 32 hearing [Navy JAG backgrounder] to determine whether the soldiers will stand trial that he took a sworn and signed statement from Spc. James P. Barker on June 30. Barker, who faces charges including rape and murder [JURIST report], told Bierce that Pfc. Steven D. Green raped and then shot Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, 14, after he had shot and killed her father, mother and sister in March. Green, who was discharged from the Army because of a personality disorder after the alleged attack but before the allegations arose, has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in a Kentucky federal court and is awaiting arraignment [JURIST report]. According to Bierce's testimony, Barker admitted that he had tried to rape the girl and had poured kerosene on her body, although he did not say who set the body on fire. Barker also implicated Sgt. Paul E. Cortez in the rape.

In addition to Green, Barker and Cortez, two other soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division [official website], Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, are charged with participating in the rape and murders. Another soldier, Anthony W. Yribe, is charged with dereliction of duty and false official statement for allegedly failing to report the attack. The hearing, which began Sunday [JURIST report], will determine whether there is enough evidence to hold a court-martial for the five soldiers still in Iraq. The military has banned the media and public from observing Iraqi witnesses' testimony [JURIST report] in the hearing. AP has more.

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