Relatives of Spanish cameraman killed in Baghdad use WikiLeaks to press for justice
After years of delays, the family of a Spanish journalist killed in a 2003 US attack on a Baghdad hotel turns to WikiLeaks documents that suggest the US and Spain colluded to prevent legal action.
In what could be the first legal case to use filtered WikiLeaks documents as evidence, the family of a Spanish cameraman killed in 2003 by a US tank shell during the battle for Baghdad filed a complaint Monday. They seek to open an investigation into whether high-ranking officials here colluded with the US Embassy to stop charges being filed against three American soldiers, including a colonel.Skip to next paragraph
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José Couso of Telecinco, the Spanish cameraman, and Taras Protsyuk, a Ukranian cameraman working for Reuters, died April 8, 2003, when a shell fired by an M1 Abraham tank hit the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel, which scores of foreign journalist were using as a base and Pentagon-approved safe haven. Two other media locations were hit that day, also killing Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayyoub. Four others were injured, leading to broad condemnation and demands to protect reporters.
Couso’s family has been fighting an uphill battle as it presses for criminal charges against the US soldiers. The US and Spain are, after all, close allies, and the US has taken the position that its soldiers are not liable to foreign jurisdictions, particularly when carrying out their duties in war zones.
The case has been dismissed twice at the request of Spanish prosecutors, only to be reopened by the Spanish Supreme Court. Currently, the country’s National Court is awaiting Iraqi entry visas to investigate the involvement of a sergeant, a captain, and a colonel in the incident seven years ago.
What the WikiLeaks documents show
According to the WikiLeaks documents posted by El País newspaper, former US ambassador in Madrid Eduardo Aguirre wrote in May 2007 that “while we are careful to show our respect for the tragic death of Couso and for the independence of the Spanish judicial system, behind the scenes we have fought tooth and nail to make the charges disappear.”
A month later, according to the documents, Mr. Aguirre told former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Spanish government “has been helpful behind the scenes in getting the case appealed.”
Then in July 2007 another confidential embassy report summarized a lunch meeting between Aguirre and Attorney General Conde-Pumpido in which the Spanish official “said that he continues to do what he can to get the case dismissed, despite public pressure from the family, leftist group, and the press,” according to Aguirre.