El caso Couso

Cable de la embajada estadounidense al Departamento de Estado sobre la evolución del caso

La embajada comunica a Washington que "parece que las órdenes de detención [de los militares] son inminentes"

ID:208341
Date:2009-05-22 13:16:00
Origin:09MADRID496
Source:Embassy Madrid
Classification:UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Dunno:08MADRID542
Destination:VZCZCXRO1069
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMD #0496 1421316
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221316Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0665
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 3990
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS MADRID 000496

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR L/DL, L/LEI AND EUR/WE, DOJ FOR DOJ/OFL PATRICIA
REEDY, OSD FOR MAGGIE SADOWSKA, NSC FOR TOBIN BRADLEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KLIG, PREL, SP, CJAN
SUBJECT: COUSO CASE: JUDGE REINSTATES CHARGES AGAINST U.S.
SOLDIERS

REF: 08MADRID542

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: May 21 Spanish National Court Judge
Santiago Pedraz issued new indictments against three U.S.
soldiers in connection with the death in Iraq of Spanish
journalist Jose Couso in 2003. The charging document
introduces new, recently obtained evidence, including
statements from former Minister of Defense Frederico Trillo
and former Foreign Minister Ana Palacio. Judge Pedraz argues
that the new evidence contradicts the U.S. position that the
soldiers were responding to hostile fire when their tank shot
at the hotel in Baghdad. Issuance of international arrest
warrants is probable. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Background: Jose Couso died in April 2003 when a
U.S. tank fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. In May
2003 the Couso family presented a criminal complaint before
the Spanish National Court against members of the Third
Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, accusing them of murder
and war crimes. The case was dismissed by the Criminal
Division of the National Court on May 13, 2008 (reftel). The
court agreed with the National Prosecutor's Office that the
investigating judge had not presented sufficient evidence to
support the allegations. This ruling, however, did not close
the case, but rather left open the option for additional
evidence to be obtained.

3. (SBU) New Evidence: In the charging document,
significantly better drafted than the original complaint
according to post's legal advisor, Judge Pedraz provides the
following new evidence: expert opinion testimony from a
Guardia Civil General on humanitarian law, testimony from
former Minister of Defense Trillo, testimony from former
Foreign Minister Palacio, additional testimony from three
journalists present at the Palestine Hotel the day of the
incident, testimony of former U.S. military intelligence
officer Adrienne Kinne obtained during a May 13, 2009,
interview with the television program "Democracy Now,"
Spanish military expert opinion on the use of arms and tanks,
and aerial photographs of the hotel and surrounding area.
Pedraz has not been successful in obtaining permission to
travel to Baghdad or the testimony of foreign reporters at
the Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi television buildings in Baghdad
also hit the same day allegedly by U.S. fire.

4. (SBU) Allegations: The judge charges the three soldiers
with murder and crimes against humanity. In the charging
document, Judge Pedraz argues that the accused violated
Geneva Convention provisions, failing to use appropriate care
in distinguishing between military and civilian targets. He
states that based upon his evidence, the U.S.military knew
that the hotel was where many foreign journalists were
staying. Pedraz argues that according to other journalists
in the hotel at the time, the tank had not come under fire
before shooting at the Palestine Hotel. Judge Pedraz also
points out that he has not received sufficient information
from the USG on the U.S. investigation into the matter.

5. (SBU) Comment: The case continues to generate significant
media interest. According to post's Spanish legal advisor,
the National Prosecutor's Office is likely to appeal the
indictment, as it did in 2005, arguing that the evidence is
insufficient to support the charges. Judge Pedraz,
reportedly close to the Couso family and passionate about the
case, may be waiting then for the charges to be confirmed by
the Criminal Division of the National Court before issuing
arrest warrants. Given the efforts apparently made to
present more compelling evidence and legal arguments,
however, it is likely that arrest warrants are imminent.
This is another subject Washington might wish to raise with
National Court Prosecutor Zaragoza during his upcoming visit
there.
DUNCAN
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