[JURIST] The US military has banned the media and public from observing witness testimony of Iraqis in upcoming Article 32 hearings [Navy JAG backgrounder] for five US Army soldiers charged [JURIST report] in connection with the rape of an Iraqi teenager and the murder of her and her family in Mahmudiya [JURIST news archive]. The trial counsel moved for the media ban Monday to protect the identity of witnesses, fearing that insurgents will target the witnesses and perceive them as helping US forces. Trial counsel Capt. Alexander Pickands told Col. Todd Ebel, commanding officer of the 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division and the defendants' unit, that several witnesses had already received threatening phone calls and letters.
Sgt. Paul Cortez, Spc. James Barker, Pfc. Jesse Spielman and Pfc. Bryan Howard have been accused of rape and murder, while Sgt. Anthony Yribe has been charged with failing to report the incident. Steven Greene, a former soldier discharged from the Army before the allegations arose, has pleaded not guilty to charges [JURIST reports] of rape and murder in the US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky [official website] in connection to the same incident. Greene'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.