Italy prosecutors appeal U.S. soldier's murder case

ROME Tue Mar 4, 2008 12:44pm EST

U.S. Army Specialist Mario Lozano of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion of the 69th Infantry Regiment, sits on his motorcycle in New York May 14, 2007. REUTERS/Chip East

U.S. Army Specialist Mario Lozano of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion of the 69th Infantry Regiment, sits on his motorcycle in New York May 14, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Chip East

ROME (Reuters) - Italian prosecutors have appealed a Rome court's decision to drop a murder case against a U.S. soldier who killed an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq, taking the matter to the country's highest court.

"We filed the appeal," one of the prosecutors, Franco Ionta, told Reuters, adding the process would take "months, not weeks".

U.S. soldier Mario Lozano had been tried in absentia in Rome for shooting Italian agent Nicola Calipari at a checkpoint outside Baghdad airport in 2005.

Calipari, seen as a hero in Italy, had been escorting a newly freed Italian hostage out of Iraq.

The Rome court argued Italy did not have jurisdiction to try Lozano -- something it said fell to the United States. Ionta hopes the high court will overrule this decision and order the trial go forward.

"The main motive (for the appeal) is that we think this trial can happen in Italy," Ionta said.

Lozano, who was a gunner at the checkpoint, says he opened fire on Calipari's car after the driver ignored warning shots and refused to stop. The United States has exonerated Lozano from blame, describing the killing as a "tragic accident".

(Writing by Phil Stewart, Editing by Stephen Weeks)