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Court orders 2d look into journalist’s death

Spanish cameraman José Couso was killed when US soldiers in Iraq responded to what they said was hostile fire. Spanish cameraman José Couso was killed when US soldiers in Iraq responded to what they said was hostile fire.
Associated Press / July 7, 2010

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MADRID — Spain’s Supreme Court yesterday ordered the reopening of an investigation into the death of a Spanish journalist who was hit by US tank fire in Iraq in 2003.

A spokeswoman said the Supreme Court had accepted an appeal by the family of cameraman José Couso and ordered the lower National Court to reopen the investigation into his death.

Couso was one of two journalists killed when the soldiers, members of a tank crew, responded to what they said was hostile fire from the Baghdad hotel that housed Western journalists during the US invasion of Iraq.

US officials said investigations had shown the soldiers acted correctly.

The American soldiers — Sergeant Shawn Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford, and Lieutenant Colonel Philip DeCamp — were all from the Third Infantry Division, based in Fort Stewart, Ga., and have not appeared in Spain in connection with the case.

Following the deaths, then-US Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said American troops had opened fire after encountering hostile fire from the hotel, perhaps from a sniper. He said a US review found the use of force was justified.

It was the second time the higher court has ordered the National Court to reopen the investigation.

Couso’s family won an appeal of a previous shelving of the investigation by the lower tribunal in 2006.

The Supreme Court official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in keeping with court regulations, said details as to why the upper court had backed the latest appeal would not be available until the full ruling is released. Santiago Pedraz, National Court investigative magistrate, first indicted the soldiers with homicide in 2007, but his court threw out the charges a year later, concluding Couso’s death was an accident of war.

Pedraz reinstated the charges again last year, citing new evidence from three Spanish journalists who were at the hotel at the time of the shelling. But the court threw the case out again, saying there was no evidence that the soldiers had acted incorrectly.

No one was immediately available at the National Court for comment on how an investigation would now proceed.

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