Spanish Judge Orders Extradition of 3 U.S. Soldiers for Iraq Killing

A Spanish High Court judge ordered on Thursday the arrest and extradition of three U.S. soldiers for killing a Spanish television cameraman during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

On April 8, 2003, Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant Colonel Phil de Camp fired a shell at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing Jose Couso, a cameraman for Telecinco, and Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukranian.

The United States has said it will not extradite the three soldiers, who were cleared of wrongdoing by a U.S. military investigation.

Spanish courts have twice investigated and twice closed the case, but on July 13 the Supreme Court ordered it opened for a third probe after Couso’s family appealed. The Spanish courts have only looked into the Couso case, not into Protsyuk’s death.

The soldiers say they fired because they thought they saw a spotter who was guiding in hostile fire. The U.S. military found the troops acted within their rules of engagement.

In 2008 a Spanish court found that Couso was killed as a result of an act of war and closed the case. The case was reopened later only to be thrown out again when a court said the investigating magistrate had presented one-sided evidence.

In the arrest order on Thursday Judge Santiago Pedraz wrote that he was calling for the soldiers’ extradition because of the seriousness of the charges and because the United States had not cooperated in the investigation, refusing to allow the soldiers to be questioned by Spanish judicial officials.

The chances of the U.S. extraditing the soldiers is unlikely because the internal investigation by U.S. military officials has already cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing. The U.S. is most like also persuaded against extradition due to public policy reasons, mainly, the likelihood of a strong opposition to extradition by the public.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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