2 GI's Face Execution For Iraq Rape-Murder

Eight soldiers from the U.S. Army's 101st division will be court-martialed for murdering Iraqi civilians, including two who face the death penalty for allegedly raping an Iraqi girl and killing her and her family, the military ordered Wednesday.

Military authorities said they would seek the death penalty against Sgt. Paul E. Cortez and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman in connection with the March rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi in her family's home in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad. The four others face a separate court martial for the alleged murder of three men near Samarra, 60 miles north of the Iraqi capital.

The rape-slaying case sparked international outrage and led to a claim by an al Qaeda-linked group that it had killed three other 101st soldiers in retaliation. It also threatened to strain relations between the United States and Iraq's new government if Iraqis perceived soldiers receive lenient treatment.

The case also increased demands for changes in an agreement that exempts U.S. soldiers from prosecution in Iraqi courts.

Spielman's attorneys expressed shock that their client faces a death penalty, citing evidence discussed during a hearing in August that indicated he was not in the house when the rape and murders occurred.

"Even according to the government's evidence that they're putting forth, Jesse isn't even a principal in murder and rape," said Craig Carlson, Spielman's attorney. "It surprises me that they're treating him like they're treating Green."

Spc. James P. Barker and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard are also accused in the rape and murders but will not face the death penalty, the military said in a statement.

Former Pvt. Steven Green, who was discharged for a personality disorder and arrested in North Carolina, will be tried in federal court in Kentucky. In affidavits, Green was described as a central figure to the rape and murders.

Green has pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and four counts of murder.

Military prosecutors have said the five — all from the division's 502nd Infantry Regiment — planned the attack from a checkpoint near the family's home, changed their clothing to hide their identities and set the girl's body on fire to destroy evidence.

Mahmoudiya is part of the so-called "triangle of death" a region known for numerous attacks by insurgents, and the soldiers' unit suffered months of bombings and shootings that felled dozens of comrades.

Defense attorneys have argued that soldiers of every rank were emotionally ragged and strained.

In the other case, Pfc. Corey R. Clagett, Spc. William B. Hunsaker, Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard and Spc. Juston R. Graber are accused of murdering three Iraqi men taken from a house May 9 on a marshy island outside Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, three Camp Pendleton Marines will face courts-martial on murder and kidnapping charges in the death of an Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania, but will not face the death penalty, the Marine Corps said Wednesday.

The three were among seven Marines and one Navy corpsman charged with kidnapping and killing 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad last April.

Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson, Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington and Cpl. Trent D. Thomas will also face charges including conspiracy, housebreaking and larceny.

On. Oct. 6, Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, a Navy corpsman on patrol with the Marines, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy under a deal with prosecutors. He agreed to testify at his court-martial and during upcoming proceedings about what he witnessed.

Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, at least 14 members of the U.S. military have been convicted in connection with the deaths of Iraqis. Two received sentences of up to life in prison, while most others were given little or no jail time.