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US military prosecutor dismisses combat stress excuse in Mahmudiya hearing

[JURIST] Captain Alex Pickands, a US military lawyer prosecuting four US Army soldiers [JURIST report] for the March 12 rape of a 14-year old Iraqi girl and the murder of the girl and her family in Mahmudiya [JURIST news archive], told a military panel in Baghdad during closing arguments on Tuesday that combat stress had nothing to do with the cold-blooded rape and murder the four defendants allegedly committed. Earlier in Tuesday's Article 32 hearing [Navy JAG backgrounder], Pfc. Justin Cross told the panel that combat stress "crushed" troop morale in Mahmudiya [JURIST report] because the troops had a constant fear of death in the notoriously dangerous region south of Baghdad. On Monday, the panel heard testimony [JURIST report] from military investigator Benjamin Bierce, who told the court that he took a sworn statement from one of the defendants saying that former soldier Steven Green raped and shot Abeer Qassim al-Janabi after he shot and killed three of her family members. The hearing, which began on Sunday [JURIST report], is expected to conclude Wednesday.

Pfc. Jesse Spielman, Spc. James Barker, Sgt. Paul Cortez and Pfc. Bryan Howard have been charged with rape and murder, while Sgt. Anthony Yribe has been charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report the incident and making false statements about the incident. Lawyers representing the four core defendants demanded a new hearing Tuesday, arguing that Yribe's lawyer asked incriminating questions. Green, who was 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 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. Reuters has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

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