July 9, 2006

Soldiers charged in Iraq rape-murder case

By Alastair Macdonald

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Five U.S. soldiers were charged in a
rape and multiple murder case that has outraged Iraqis, as
documents obtained by Reuters on Sunday showed the rape victim
was aged 14, and not over 20 as U.S. officials have said.

Days after former private Steven Green was charged as a
civilian in a U.S. court with rape and four murders, four
serving soldiers were charged with the same offences, the U.S.
military said in statement. It did not name the troops.

Another soldier, apparently a sixth member of Green's
former unit in the 502nd Infantry Regiment, was charged on
Saturday with dereliction of duty for not reporting the crime
in March.

All five were charged with conspiring with Green, accused
by U.S. prosecutors of going with three others to a house near
the checkpoint they were manning outside Mahmudiya, near
Baghdad, and of killing a couple and their two daughters. The
five could face the death penalty.

Court documents described the raped daughter as an "adult
female" and estimated her age as 25. U.S. military officials in
Iraq say their documents have her as 20. Local officials and
relatives had said she was 15 or 16.

Her identity card and a copy of her death certificate
obtained by Reuters, however, show she was 14.

Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi was born on August 19, 1991 in
Baghdad, according to the identity card, provided to Reuters by
a relative. Issued in 1993, it features a photograph of her at
18 months, wide-eyed and with a lick of dark hair over her

A copy of her death certificate, dated March 13, gives the
same birth date. She was found at home by a relative on March
12 and had died from "gunshot wounds to the head, with burns,"
said the document, signed by doctor Wael Habib and a registrar.

No independent verification of the documents was
immediately available.

The age of consent with parental approval in Iraq is 15,
though it is not uncommon for girls to marry younger in rural

Abeer's sister Hadeel was aged six when she died of
"several gunshot wounds."


The killers tried to burn the bodies and house to cover
their tracks, relatives and local officials have said. Scorch
marks and bloodstains can still be seen in the one-storey home.

Some relatives have said they would not object to exhuming
the dead for forensic tests, a religiously sensitive process.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, balancing a dependence
on U.S. firepower with a need to show Iraqis he is in charge,
has voiced frustration with a mounting number of cases against
Americans and wants a review of their immunity from Iraqi law.

Since revelations in March of a U.S. probe into whether
Marines killed 24 people at Haditha, Mahmudiya is the fifth
case of serious crime being investigated by the U.S. military.
In all, 16 soldiers have been charged with murder in the past
month or so -- as many as in the previous three years of

Officers say generals are cracking down to try to curb harm
to civilians that have turned Iraqis against U.S. troops. One
said a report submitted on Friday to the top general in Iraq
should see action against Marine commanders who failed to act
on evidence troops may have killed civilians at Haditha on
November 19.

Green, 21, has since been discharged from the army due to a
"personality disorder." The case came to light during stress
counseling for a soldier in Green's unit last month.

A soldier cited in U.S. court documents as the first
witness told investigators Green and three others drank alcohol
and discussed rape. They then told the soldier to keep watch on
the radio as they set off for the house, some in civilian

Two soldiers who said they went to the house accused Green
of killing the parents and child before he and the other
soldier in the home raped Abeer. Green then shot her too, they

A sixth unidentified soldier is mentioned in court papers
as discussing the case later with the first witness at their

The death certificate makes no mention of rape, a taboo
subject in Iraq.

Some relatives have said they would not object to exhuming
the dead for forensic tests, a religiously sensitive process.

Abeer's 34-year-old father Qasim Hamza Rasheed al-Janabi,
whose five-year-old ID card photograph shows a slim, dark man
with a mustache, was a laborer who died of a "smashing of the
head due to gunshot wounds," his death certificate said.

His wife, Fakhriya Taha Muheisin al-Janabi, was 43 when she
died of "several wounds." All four certificates gave the time
of death as 2 p.m. on March 12, possibly referring to when the
bodies were found by Mehdi Obeid Salih, Fakhriya's cousin.

Two sons, aged 13 and 10, survived because they were absent
from the house at the time.

"She was a beautiful girl," one relative said, asking not
to be named. "She complained to her mother about trouble from
American soldiers. She gave them no encouragement as we are a
conservative and respectable family."

(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Baghdad and
Sami al-Jumaili)