World News

Family demands Spanish probe in Iraq death case

MADRID (Reuters) - The family of a cameraman killed by U.S. fire during in Iraq plans to lodge a legal demand that Spain’s state prosecutor probe whether officials bowed to U.S. pressure to shelve a case against the soldiers involved.

Leaked diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks showed Spanish prosecutors and ministers discussed the case of Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso, with U.S. diplomats seeking to prevent legal action against the soldiers.

Couso and Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk were killed in 2003 when U.S. soldiers fired a tank shell at the Palestine hotel in Baghdad.

“We hope that it will be the State Prosecutor’s Office which will implement the appropriate measures, whether they be administrative, disciplinary or penal,” Enrique Santiago, the lawyer representing the Couso family, said on Friday.

The state prosecutor could decide there had been no wrongdoing, the lawyer added.

Spanish deputy prime minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba denied his government had ever meddled with the courts.

“The Spanish government has never interfered in or pressured any court of justice -- neither judges nor prosecutors,” he said at the government’s weekly news conference.

Couso’s brother Javier told Reuters on Thursday that if Spain took no legal action, the family would consider taking the case to Europe’s Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Spanish courts twice closed the case against the three American soldiers, but a High Court judge ordered their arrest and extradition in July.

A U.S. military investigation has cleared the three men of wrongdoing. The soldiers say they fired because they thought they saw a “spotter” guiding in hostile fire.

Writing by Sonya Dowsett; editing by Alexander Smith