May 9, 2007 / 6:03 PM / 13 years ago

U.S. soldier's lawyer eyes murder trial win in Italy

ROME (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier on trial in absentia in Italy for killing an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq hopes to win the case on technical grounds, but a newly released video also supports his innocence, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Alberto Biffani, hired by the U.S. Department of Defense to represent Mario Lozano, said that the footage taken at the scene just after the March 2005 shooting showed he acted correctly. The video was released this week by Lozano’s U.S. lawyers.

The murder trial, which opened with brief procedural motions last month, resumes on Monday at a high-security prison in Rome.

Lozano says he opened fire on the car carrying agent Nicola Calipari after his driver ignored signals to stop ahead of the checkpoint on the road to Baghdad airport. Calipari had been escorting a newly freed Italian hostage out of Iraq.

“In our opinion that video shows that Mr. Lozano fully respected the rules of engagement,” Biffani told Reuters in an interview.

“You can see that the car stopped after over-passing the last barrier,” Biffani said.

Lozano, had previously called that the “kill line”, adding Calipari’s car had already crossed the “warning line” and “danger line”.

Still, Biffani said that, although there was plenty of evidence supporting Lozano, perhaps it would never need to be submitted thanks to technical flaws in the prosecutors’ case.

UNPRECEDENTED

First, Biffani said the case should not have been allowed to go forward since his client was never officially informed of the preliminary hearings, a violation of Italian law he argued would invalidate the trial.

“Another aspect, more relevant in this case, is our opinion that this court does not have jurisdiction,” he added.

“The fact that the soldier can be judged by a civil court of another country is something that is totally without precedent.”

Rome and Washington both agreed the shooting was an accident in a war zone, but Italy has complained the United States should have assumed responsibility for placing inexperienced troops at a poorly set-up roadblock.

Italy’s independent prosecutors say Washington refused to answer their request for judicial cooperation and the U.S. defense department has ruled out handing Lozano over for trial.

Lozano, from the U.S. Army National Guard in New York, told an Italian newspaper in remarks published on Wednesday that the charges had ruined his marriage and career and that “today my two children live in terror that I’ll end up in jail”.

Biffani refused to speculate whether Lozano might appear in court of his own accord, but said he might ask the court to hear from witnesses speaking on Lozano’s behalf.

Additional reporting by Roberto Landucci and Deepa Babington

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