Reporters Without Borders

Judge Santiago Pedraz calls new witnesses in Couso case

Published on Tuesday 20 May 2008.
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Spanish judge, Santiago Padraz, has summoned Spanish defence minister in the José Maria Aznar government, Frederico Trillo, and ex foreign minister, Ana Palacio, to appear before him in the case of Telecinco cameraman, José Couso, killed by US shell fire at the Hotel Palestine, Baghdad on 8 April 2003.

The judge has also summoned, for 9 June 2008, three Spanish journalists who were present in the Iraqi capital during the US attack, which also caused the death of a cameraman working for Reuters, Ukrainian national, Taras Protsyuk.

This decision comes a few days after revelations from a former US military intelligence official that the hotel, where a large number of foreign journalists were staying, was on a list of potential US military targets.

“We salute the efforts of the Spanish judge and hope that five years after the event, it will lead to it being established unequivocally who was responsible for the death of the two journalists”, Reporters Without Borders said.

“There should be complete cooperation from the US, Spanish and Iraqi authorities”, the worldwide press freedom organisation added.

Judge Santiago Padraz decided to summon Frederico Trillo and Ana Palacio to add to his file information provided by the US authorities to the two ministers at the time in 2003. The judge also sent a rogatory (requesting information) commission to Iraq to seek permission for a Spanish judicial commission to travel to Baghdad.

This decision reopens the case after Spain’s National Court on 13 May 2008 upheld an appeal from the public ministry to halt the proceedings that Judge Santiago Padraz sought to take against the three US soldiers implicated in the shooting at the Hotel Palestine.

Former US military intelligence office, Adrienne Kinne, said in an interview on 13 May with the TV and radio programme “Democracy Now!” presented by Amy Goodman and relayed by several local stations, that the Hotel Palestine was among the potential targets in Baghdad that had been identified by the Pentagon as its forces entered Baghdad in March 2003.

Kinne added that she had tried to alert her superiors to the presence in the building of a large number of journalists, but said she had not been listened to. A Pentagon spokesman questioned by Reporters Without Borders would only say that the investigation carried out by the US defence ministry had concluded that the attack on the Hotel Palestine was a “regrettable accident”.

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