July 11, 2006

US court asked for gag order in Iraq rape-murder

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A lawyer for a former U.S. soldier
charged with killing a family of four in Iraq and raping one of
them asked a judge on Tuesday for a gag order preventing
officials from President George W. Bush on down from commenting
on the case.

Without that, a court filing said, 21-year-old Steven Green
will not get a fair trial. He pleaded not guilty last week to
four counts of murder and one count of rape, and a Kentucky
grand jury is currently considering the case against him.

"This case has received prominent and often sensational
coverage in virtually all print, electronic, and Internet news
media in the world," the filing in U.S. District Court in
Louisville, Kentucky, said.

"Strong and inflammatory opinion is rampant, including the
President in a nationally televised interview deeming the
alleged conduct of the defendant to be a 'despicable crime' and
opining that he was 'staining the image, the honorable image of
the United States military'," the motion said.

The motion, filed by Scott Wendelsdorf, a public defender
assigned to Green, also cited comments on the case from Gen.
Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Green, discharged from the Army with a personality
disorder, was charged with taking part in a home invasion, rape
and murder in March in Mahmudiya, Iraq, while on duty with the
Kentucky-based 101st Airborne.

Fourteen-year-old Abeer al-Janabi was raped and killed. Her
parents and 6-year-old sister were also slain.

Four other soldiers still with the 502nd Infantry Regiment
also face rape and murder charges and a fifth a charge of
failing to report it.

A group led by al Qaeda in Iraq meanwhile has released
gruesome footage of two corpses it said were U.S. soldiers
killed in June to avenge the rape and murder of the Iraqi girl.

Since the military announced its investigation, Iraqis and
their government have expressed mounting outrage over the case,
which comes after several other murder probes involving U.S.
troops. Many Iraqis have complained the troops can kill with
impunity.